SIHANOUKVILLE (Khmer Times) – Interior Minister and Deputy Prime Minister Sar Kheng paid a brief visit here this week for a transfer-of-power ceremony from outgoing Provincial Governor Chhit Sokhon to his replacement, Yun Min.
Although his visit was short, his words were sharp – to an audience that included provincial and municipal officials, business leaders, members of the Cambodian People’s Party and top-ranking military and police officers.
Illegal fishing, crime and corruption will no longer be tolerated, the deputy prime minister told them. His speech focused on safety and security in the province, as Yun Min – a former military commander – officially became governor on Monday.
Mr. Kheng specifically called for better policing off Cambodia’s coast, saying “illegal fishing” is on the rise. He pointed the finger at Thai and Vietnamese fishing boats, saying they were illegally entering Cambodian waters.
The deputy PM also warned officials that corruption would no longer be tolerated and accused some officials of turning a blind eye to crime for personal gain. Mr. Kheng pledged to install an anti-corruption team to keep an eye on maritime border security officials, in response to allegations they have been taking bribes to allow illegal fishing off the coast.
Safety, security and public order must be improved, Mr. Kheng said, echoing statements made by the new municipal governor, Y Sokleng, who was appointed under his direction.
Mr. Kheng spoke at some length about misbehaving foreigners, specifically “fighting between Russians,” and especially deported oligarch Sergei Polonsky.
He said that Mr. Polonsky “had instilled fear in locals” and accused authorities of “turning a blind eye” to events that preceded his deportation in May.
Mr. Kheng did not speak about recent crime or crimes against foreigners by Khmers, or mention any recent increases in violence, including reports of multiple rapes and violent robberies.
He did, however, praise local police, saying that the province “has seen a reduction in crime” since Chuon Narin was named provincial police chief in May.
In recent weeks however, Khmer Times has reported that foreign diplomats, local officials and residents have expressed concern about a rise in violent crime – especially against foreigners.
A recent spike in robberies, assaults, rapes and thefts has caused concern amongst many expatriates and business-owners in the coastal city. They say that police here are still not doing enough.
Senior officers have declined to comment on reports of a crime wave to the Khmer Times.
Deputy provincial police chief Kol Phally, however, defended his force this week, telling the Phnom Penh Post that crime was down in the province overall.
“There is no more fighting between Russians, or other nationalities,” he was quoted by the paper, an English-language daily. “Robbery, especially, has reduced a lot,” he told the newspaper.