Police Plan Nationwide Personal IDs

Cambodians will be issued personal identification cards and family books within the next year to help control crime, police officials said Thursday.

Government officials will go to houses nationwide to do an informal census and deliver family books—a form of identification for each family—starting immediately, said Director-General of National Police Hok Lundy.

“It will be a source of information and the basis of the country’s security and protection program,” Hok Lundy told a seminar of police leaders from around the country Thursday.

The police officials also discussed other efforts to help control crime and catch criminals on Thursday.

The printing and distribution the family books will cost an estimated $6.8 million and be finished by June 1999, said Ouk Kimlek, director of the national security department in the Min­istry of Interior. The cost of the books will be split by Cambodian citizens and the government. They will cost families 6000 riel each.

If all the data is correct, the family books and ID cards will be distributed at the same time. Family books

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books will go to the head of the family and ID cards will be issued for all Cambodians over the age of 18 years. The Council of Ministers passed a subdecree to distribute national ID cards in June 1996, but the process was postponed after fighting in the capital a year later.

The family books system is similar to the identification system in Vietnam. The Vietnamese use the books primarily to obtain social services such as education and health. But there have also been documented instances in Vietam where political dissidents who have not gotten the books were prevented from such services, a human rights official said.

In Cambodia, the new ID system should help in tracking down criminals and keeping statistics, Ouk Kimlek said.

Phnom Penh has had several waves of crime in the past few years. This past year, the kidnapping of ethnic Chinese business people and their families has become a particular problem with sometimes brutal results.

Police officials discussed the need to draft a new law on weapons control. They said they will study laws from France, Belgium, Thailand and Vietnam for inspiration, said Ouk Kimlek.

Currently, gun control laws include a 1992 law and a 1995 subdecree, but critics have said these laws are rarely enforced.

Hok Lundy also said he is working with RCAF Chief of General Staff Ke Kim Yan to come up with a new gun registration certificate. The current certificate issued to RCAF soldiers is easily counterfeited, Hok Lundy said.

Ke Kim Yan and Hok Lundy are also discussing disarming local militia units in regions now safe from military threats, Hok Lundy said.

Prime Minister Hun Sen ordered village and commune militia in areas where there is no Khmer Rouge activity disarmed in August 1997. The eight-point security declaration stated that the collected weapons should be either warehoused or destroyed. Under the declaration, the National Police and the ministries of Defense and Interior would decide which areas would keep weapons and which ones would destroy them.

Keeping track of license plates is also a priority in apprehending criminals, Hok Lundy said. He suggested a new draft law be written for license plates and control of vehicle registration be moved from the Ministry of Public Works and Transportation.

“Police are the country’s monitors so they need tools so they can get information quickly if there is a problem,” Hok Lundy said.

The Public Works Ministry has been under fire by Phnom Penh officials in recent weeks for their inability to control illegal license plates.

Hok Lundy praised a current municipal effort to count and buy back weapons and suggested it be used for a nationwide effort. But he added that most professional criminals will not hand over their weapons.

The city has given gun owners until January before they go door-to-door to take back unregistered weapons they had earlier declared.

“The new government has to push this issue because to ensure good security is to ensure a good political atmosphere,” Hok Lundy said.

(additional reporting by Mhari Saito)

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