Claiming damage to officers’ “prestige and dignity,” the country’s national police union has asked the Information Ministry to step in and regulate a series of comedic videos depicting traffic-police imposters in an “inappropriate” way — including having long hair.
The Information Ministry said it would warn all broadcasters as requested, because free expression should not “affect others’ rights.”
The videos — produced by CTN, a television station operated by tycoon Kith Meng’s Royal Group — aim to educate viewers on the Traffic Law, said producer Sovann Rithy. Fines under the law were increased in March by as much as five times the previous rates.
“We do it for entertainment. Secondly, it is to raise awareness and make people understand,” Rithy said on Thursday.
The latest video — the fifth in the series, broadcast and released online on Monday — shows a villager driving a motorbike on a dirt road without mirrors or a helmet. He is stopped by two people pretending to be police officers.
The fake officers try to extort money from the villager, who explains that he is driving down a back road after having went “poo” in the forest. The villager gives his motorbike to the officers, before finding out from his commune police chief that they were in fact thieves.
Rithy said the point of the video was to highlight that there are opportunists out there wearing fake police uniforms and trying to cheat people out of their money.
He said the TV station had no desire to paint anyone in a bad light, and he would be more careful in the future.
“We had no intention to blame anyone,” Rithy said.
The National Police Association, however, sent a letter to the Information Ministry on Tuesday asking that the ministry review and improve the program because it tarnished the image of the police force.
“The Cambodian National Police Association sees that it has a bad impact on the prestige and dignity of the national police force, which is trying to fulfill its duties in maintaining security, order, safety and national stability for the country and its people,” the letter says.
The actors who played the fake policemen had long hair and wore uniforms with incorrect insignia, and some characters used bad language, the letter adds.
Interior Ministry personnel department head Pen Vibol, who signed the letter, told VOD that current and retired police officers had negative reactions to the video, and wanted to defend a profession they loved.
“We want to see the group that maintains national security be valued, without picking on the failings of some individuals,” Vibol said. “There are bad and good people, and not all 60,000 police officers are good. But we used one tree to attack the whole forest, so the good people will feel bad too.”
Officers did not always fulfill their duties, but television producers should find other ways of educating people without looking down on the profession of policing, he said.
The letter was simply a request and there would be no further action, he added.
Information Ministry spokesman Meas Sophorn said the ministry would notify all broadcasters to pay more attention to programming that could affect the reputations of any individual or institution.
“We will inform them in accordance with what the Cambodian National Police Association requested,” Sophorn said.
If any organizations believe that stations are continuing to broadcast offensive content, they can file further complaints under the Press Law, he said.
Asked if the advisory to broadcasters could impinge on their rights to free expression, Sophorn said the exercise of rights should not cause harm to others.
“We have the right, but our rights cannot affect others’ rights,” he said.
Comedian Sen Sobun, known as Neay Krouch, who played the part of the commune police chief, said the actors just wanted to entertain viewers and make them happy.
The long hair was not mockery but a mistake due to matters of practicality, he said, adding that the actors also improvised some of their dialogue.
“The actors do not always act as policemen. Sometimes, they play the role of a gangster; they need to keep long hair.”