PHNOM PENH - Over the Chinese New Year, police, military police and armed forces soldiers gathered outside the house of a powerful ruling party senator, where they received traditional red envelopes of money.
As many as 1,000 security forces eventually swarmed the house, receiving between $7.50 and $12.50 from the wife of Senator Lao Meng Khin, whose Pheapmix company has been embroiled in an ongoing land dispute and forced eviction.
Critics say their behavior sends a bad message to Cambodia’s disenfranchised and underscores the kind of relationship that the rich and powerful have with those charged with public safety.
Lao Mong Hay, an independent analyst, said the images from the handout appeared as though a boss were giving money to grateful employees. It also made the nation’s security forces look like “beggars,” he said. There should be a ban on government employees taking such New Year gifts, he said.
Opposition leader Sam Rainsy told VOA Khmer that the security forces were not to blame, because the salaries they receive from the government are so low.
Military spokesman Keng Tito acknowledged that members in uniform took money, but he said that they still have an obligation to perform their duties without favor.
Government spokesman Phay Siphan said there is no law forbidding such handouts.