Crackdown on corrupt firefighters

2021-02-22 10:52:49

Sen David / Khmer Times 

Minister of Interior Sar Kheng has ordered authorities to crack down on firefighters and fire truck drivers asking for bribes from homeowners in exchange for putting out fires.

During the celebration for the International Day of Remembrance for Road Traffic Victims in Kandal province yesterday, Kheng said if a firefighter refuses to put out a fire and waits for the owner of the house to pay a bribe first, the local authorities are at fault. He instructed all provincial governors to look into this issue and make sure it does not happen at all.

He said that sometimes fire trucks cannot reach fires due to bad roads or clustered housing, but if the trucks can reach the fire they are obligated to put it out straight away.

He added that the fire trucks belong to the state, the petrol is state-paid and the firefighters are state-paid civil servants. “You must not take money on the missions. Do not do it as a business for yourself. It is not right. I ask all capital and provincial authorities to pay attention to check the problem, solve the problem and do not let it happen.”

However, he recognised that the state salary is low and said the government is considering introducing policy to encourage them with extra benefits.

Major Chheang Sophanara, deputy Phnom Penh police chief in charge of firefighting, said firefighters taking money from homeowners during operations used to happen in the past, but currently, there are no cases of it happening.

However, he instructed his officials to not commit the act and put some measures in place to prevent it.

He called on people to report to the police any firefighters who try to take money for their services.

According to the Ministry of Interior’s Fire Prevention and Rescue Department, there were 937 fires in 2020, killing 24 people and injuring 36 others.

It said the number of fires in 2020 increased by 220 cases compared to 2019. There were 707 houses and 594 stalls, as well as many other properties, damaged by fire.

It found that most of these fires were caused by electrical explosions (37.88 percent), incense burners (32.33 percent), with the rest remaining under investigation.