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Cambodia's Police Are in the Market for Water Cannon Trucks ‘to Be Used Against Demonstrations’

Categories: East Asia, Cambodia, Governance, Human Rights, Politics, Protest
Police notice for the bidding of water cannon trucks. Photo from Facebook page of Sopheap Chak [1]

Police notice for the bidding of water cannon trucks. Photo from Facebook page of Sopheap Chak

The Cambodian police has released a public bidding notice [2] for the procurement of two water cannon trucks which they specifically mentioned are going “to be used against demonstrations.”

It reads: 

To supply two water cannon trucks to be used against demonstrations. The said trucks are manufactured in Korea in 2014, with 100% quality, to be provided to national police forces for use in security, safety and social order protection operation.

The notice, published [3] in two local newspapers, alarmed human rights activists who fear that authorities might resort to violence again as garment workers have recently revived [4] their petition to increase their monthly minimum wage.

Garment workers held a nationwide strike last January, which was violently dispersed [5] by the police. The protest camp of the political opposition at the Phnom Penh Freedom Park was also removed by authorities. For several months, the government has banned [6] public demonstrations to maintain peace and order in the country.

Sopheap Chak of the Cambodian Center for Human Rights asked [1] about the budget source of the proposed purchase and criticized the police for trying to undermine free speech:

People tax payment or aid support? Instead of strengthening its effort in using water cannon to rescue people from fire, the government is focused on how to fight against freedom.

On Facebook, John Weeks, a communications officer for Swedish development organization Forum Syd in Cambodia, also questioned the priorities [7] of the government:

Now if only the government put *land concessions* out for competitive bidding instead of riot control equipment, there would be a lot more trust. Sigh.

While water cannon trucks are commonly used across the world, this could be the first time in Cambodia that a government agency has explicitly admitted that the trucks will be used against rallies and not for fire control.