Environment Ministry spokesman Neth Pheaktra highlighted the benefits of village security guards, saying they are a central body at the local level in implementing village and township security policies.
Pheaktra – also vice chairman of the government task force for Bokor town – made the remarks during a visit to Koh Touch township, where he distributed 56 walkie-talkies to guards.
Pheaktra said radio communication was an important way for them to work effectively alongside regular police forces. Good communication also meant that quick responses were more likely, helping the guards maintain public order and thus making villages and townships safer for the public.
Pheaktra thanked them for dedicating their time and physical and mental strength to provide security and protect the people of their villages.
“Village security guards play an important role in maintaining public safety and security. This group is now also a crucial part of the communal police administration, thanks to its work in the prevention and suppression of local crimes,” he said.
The president of the Cambodian Institute for Democracy, Pa Chanroeun, said on April 20 that it was true that village guards had a role to play in security and the protection of public order, but according to his past observations, there does not appear to be a clear distinction between them and the police or military in protecting the public or in implementing the safe villages and townships policy.
Chanroeun said some guards used their power to interrogate or spy on people’s homes, saying they were involved in social or political activities that caused fear or intimidation and violated public rights and freedoms.
“I suggest that relevant ministries, especially the Ministry of Interior, review the duties and responsibilities – as well as the ethics – of village security guards to prevent any negative phenomena arising from their roles, leaving them focused on the common goal of creating safe conditions for the people of the village,” he said.
Interior Ministry spokesman Khieu Sopheak said on April 20 that the police forces and village security guards were not the same and the distribution of responsibilities was different, although the uniforms were the same color.
He added that the guards had an important role to play in maintaining order, but were not members of the judiciary.
He did not deny some of their shortcomings, saying, “Things always do, it’s inevitable – even Budhha wasn’t perfect.”
If the village guards made mistakes, the ministry would investigate and provide additional training, he said.
“I recognize that some people are corrupt, but if we insult them, we are also not behaving in a moral way. There may actually be corrupt guards working, but overall they have done a lot to maintain public order,” he added.