The Interior Ministry is investigating sexual abuse complaints from several female police officers against their male boss, the Kampong Thom provincial police chief, who was accused of both physical abuse and verbal threats in an unverified letter leaked to the press last week.
Interior Minister Sar Kheng said on Tuesday that he had received information about the allegations against provincial police chief Ouk Kosal, and forwarded the case to National Police chief Neth Savoeun and Kampong Thom provincial governor Sok Lou.
If Kosal was found guilty of abusing the women officers, he would face legal action, Kheng said in response to questions from reporters after a National Committee Against Torture event at the Interior Ministry headquarters in Phnom Penh.
“So far, I have not decided how to resolve it yet; [I’m] waiting for the working group to check,” the minister said.
“In fact, I issued a warning letter one time already, and I promised that after being warned, if there is no change, there will only be one more step, to remove [him from his position] or to levy more serious administrative punishment,” he added.
In March, Kheng issued warnings to Kosal for purported lack of leadership as well as three deputies for “carelessness.”
According to an unverified complaint letter dated July 30 and signed by six women, with four accompanying thumbprints, Kosal was accused of pressuring his female subordinates to masturbate him in his office and of touching their breasts and genitals.
The letter was shared on Thursday in a Telegram messaging group that includes officials and journalists, but could not be verified by VOD.
Kosal allegedly called women to meet him individually in his office at the provincial police station, and then questioned them about their rank, position and whether they wanted to be promoted, the letter says.
The police chief told the women that he could help them if they agreed to have a romantic relationship with him, it adds.
The women did not dare shout out or flee from Kosal because they feared his power as police chief, and he allegedly threatened them not to tell others about the incidents; if they did, they would have unspecified problems, according to the leaked document.
The female officers previously had given their testimonies to the personnel department, but the situation was not remedied, and instead, they faced more pressure from Kosal, the letter says.
Kosal could not be reached for comment on Tuesday.
National Police spokesperson Chhay Kim Khoeun told VOD that officials were investigating but he could not share details.
“The investigating process has already started and if [you] want to know the result immediately, [I] can’t answer you,” he said.
Soeng Senkaruna, spokesperson for the human rights group Adhoc, said he supported the Interior Ministry’s move to examine the claims, but also called for authorities to conduct a proper, transparent investigation.
“It is good that the leaders pay attention to the leaks of the improper acts by the leaders of the lower-level agencies because most of them who have the problems have nothing to rely on but their superiors to look into all these problems,” Senkaruna said.
If the allegations were found to be true, not only administrative penalties should be leveled, he added.
“If any criminal offense is found, it needs to be sent to the court.”
(Translated and edited from the original article on VOD Khmer)