China Gives $3M for City Surveillance System

The Chinese government on Tuesday donated $3 million to Cambodia to set up a closed-circuit television (CCTV) surveillance system across Phnom Penh to help cut down on crime and traffic accidents, according to the national police.

“This is a donation from the Chinese Ministry of Public Security that is equal to 20,000,000 yuan, or $3 million, for the study, research and monitoring of traffic and security in Phnom Penh city,” says an announcement posted to the National Police Commissariat’s website.

The news followed a visit Tuesday from a delegation of Public Security Ministry officials from Beijing to the National Police headquarters in Phnom Penh.

Kirth Chantharith, spokesman for the national police, said police have already started to study locations for the cameras and their possible uses.

“From the 12th, the National Police started to study locations to monitor traffic and crime in all of Phnom Penh,” he said.

Mr. Chantharith said that once the cameras are installed, the video feeds will be monitored from the national police headquarters and only officials from the national police would have access.

Phnom Penh already has a number of CCTV cameras installed, but they are located at large street intersections and used primarily to monitor traffic.

Eng Sorphea, head of the serious crime bureau for the Phnom Penh municipal police, said the new cameras would help police cut down on crime.

“We investigate hard without video to [recreate] the scene when an incident happens. If we have video, then it is easier to identify a suspect and make an arrest,” he said. “But CCTV cameras do not mean that police stop working. We still investigate. The CCTV only proves to the people what really did happen.”

A security expert and human rights NGO said the installation of a CCTV system across Phnom Penh could have its benefits, if the system is properly used.

“They’re great as a policing tool if they’re used properly. It will for sure reduce crime and make the community feel a bit safer,” said Steve Morrish, a former Australian police detective who runs Azisafe, a security consultancy based in Phnom Penh.

Chak Sopheap, executive director of the Cambodian Center for Human Rights, said the cameras could help reduce crime but would have to be used in a transparent manner.

“As with many other such developments in Cambodia…there are concerns that increased means of surveillance and data collection could be used to intrude upon citizens’ privacy and rights,” she said.

“It is important that the implementation of this project is done transparently and with the feedback of stakeholders to ensure that it is truly used for crime prevention and not for violating human rights.”

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