Chinese Police Start Placing Surveillance Cameras

Chinese police began installing surveillance cameras on the streets of Phnom Penh on Tuesday, following a donation from Beijing to assist authorities in monitoring crime and traffic in the capital, an official said Wednesday.

Plainclothes officers from China’s Ministry of Public Security continued to install closed-circuit television cameras (CCTV) at three locations around the city Wednesday, and will have put 200 cameras in place by the beginning of next month, said Min Sovanna, director of the radio communication department at the Cambodian National Police.

Police officials from China's Ministry of Public Security install a surveillance camera on a traffic light at the intersection of Monivong and Mao Tse Toung boulevards in Phnom Penh on Wednesday. (Siv Channa/The Cambodia Daily)
Police officials from China’s Ministry of Public Security install a surveillance camera on a traffic light at the intersection of Monivong and Mao Tse Toung boulevards in Phnom Penh on Wednesday. (Siv Channa/The Cambodia Daily)

“China has donated 200 security cameras and LCD screens,” Mr. Sovanna said. “These security cameras will be installed on traffic lights at 20…road intersections.”

Mr. Sovanna added that a total of 32 square meters of television screens were being set up at a command center at the National Police headquarters. Officers from his department, he said, would monitor the screens around the clock.

“Our forces will work 24 hours and one group will have 15 people at the command center. We will have a hotline to receive information and intervene in places where there are traffic jams,” he said, adding that his department will be in direct contact with police departments throughout the city.

According to Mr. Sovanna, the cameras are still being tested, but that once operational will also help police tackle crime.

“We can monitor to look for traffic jams, [to see] who has violated the traffic law and other offenses such as [bag] snatching [and] robbery,” he said. “And we can save data from the cameras as evidence against those who have committed offenses.”

Mr. Sovanna said China would train his department on how to use and maintain the cameras.

So far, the cameras have been installed at the intersections of Norodom and Mao Tse Tung boulevards, Mao Tse Tung and Monivong boulevards and on National Road 1 in Chbar Ampov district.

Mr. Sovanna said he did not know the total cost of the equipment, but the National Police said in August last year that Beijing would donate $3 million for the project.

It is estimated that China has one of the world’s largest number of state-operated CCTV cameras. Citing a Shanghai-based security specialist, The Wall Street Journal reported last year that China has as many as 100 million CCTV cameras, most of them in public spaces.

National Police Officers from the National Police's radio communication department watch monitors linked to surveillance cameras in Phnom Penh on Tuesday.
National Police
Officers from the National Police’s radio communication department watch monitors linked to surveillance cameras in Phnom Penh on Tuesday.

In Cambodia, however, few cameras had been installed prior to this latest initiative.

Mr. Sovanna said that in addition to the 200 new cameras, there were 50 others currently recording in public areas in Phnom Penh. Those cameras, he said, were donated by Vietnam in 2012.

Chak Sopheap, executive director of the Cambodian Center for Human Rights, said the collection of footage from CCTV cameras needs to be done openly to ensure the rights to privacy were respected.

“As with many other such developments in Cambodia, such as the planned Cybercrime Law, there are concerns that increased means of surveillance and data collection could be used to intrude upon citizens’ privacy and rights,” Ms. Sopheap said in an email.

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

In December, the Interior Ministry announced that Beijing—the largest foreign investor in Cambodia and a regular donor of military and security hardware—would construct and cover the cost of a new seven-story headquarters for the National Police in Phnom Penh.

(Additional reporting by Chris Mueller)

[email protected]

© 2015, The Cambodia Daily. All rights reserved. No part of this article may be reproduced in print, electronically, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed without written permission.