Ladies and Gentlemen,
Today, one day before the end of the year 2002, we are gathering here to reflect, discuss and provide important inputs to improve and increase the effectiveness of the judiciary in Cambodia in response to the expectation of the Cambodian public. Justice is an important part of each citizen’s life and also an important part of human rights. Thus, justice is a universal and special issue and it is a domain of the court and judges.
On behalf of the Royal Government and myself, I would like to welcome all comments that our judges and prosecutors raised at this seminar. My assistants, all government agencies and I will seriously study all comments or proposals made by this seminar.
The policy of the Royal Government which was adopted by the National Assembly on 30th November 1998, clearly affirms its policy of peace, stability, national unity which are crucial for establishing a rule of law, developing liberal multi-party democracy and enhancing the respect of human rights. All these are priority policies of the Royal Government. Four reform programs have been introduced, including the reform of the judiciary. As we have witnessed, the wars have undermined many systems, including the judiciary. The Genocide Regime totally wiped out human rights, therefore, people had to live like animals without anything, including justice. The promotion of the respect for human rights in Cambodia also has revived all sectors from ashes. So far, although things have progressively evolved hundred times faster than the time we were just reborn, the present proposals and needs remain enormous and exceed our capacity for many times. This requires us to proceed with reforms aiming at resolving the conflict between proposals and capacity, and seek a new means to further enhance the capacity to meet our proposals and objectives.
In the whole country, we have 133 judges and 65 prosecutors. If we compare the number of 198 magistrates with the population of 11 millions, we can see that we have one judge for every 50,000 people. The analysis of this figure requires us to seek all means to promote further training of judges for our country. We have made some progress by the end of 2002 with the establishment of the Royal School of Magistrature, which hopefully in the next few years will enable us to improve the quality and quantity of magistrates will meet the needs of our society.
[Ad-lib comments] In this point I would like to emphasize that in consultation with HE Dith Munti and HE Sok An, I thought that the Royal School of Judge had previously thought of selecting only 30 students. But I was thinking that this number is not sufficient for the first course in comparison to this enormous need we had. I recommended an increase of the number of student from thirty to fifty persons and only thirty students for each course thereafter. This is recommended in face of the lack of judges and now we also have provided people in this portfolio with a salary of at least Riels 1,300,000 and the judge trainee would also get Riels 500,000. We are now lacking of judges but we also should refrain from facing a situation in which we have more judges than it is necessary. You may all remember that we used to have an inflation of military officials because there were thousand of generals. We have taken very effective measure in trimming down the number when we reduce every general one star or one level lower. I hope that we would not have such situation by taking the number of judges into consideration.[End]
At the same time, we still have several important issues to discuss together and resolve together to create a just society for all of us. In this regard, may I propose some important points for your consideration.
Firstly, how to reduce crimes? The fight against crime is not a simple issue. Most of the time, the offenders hide from the police. We cannot win the war against criminals without a unity within the society. All, the police, the court, people and various institutions should unite and believe in their consolidated strength then we can overcome and reduce crimes. Management including data management is also necessary for contributing to the reduction of crime. The establishment of sufficient laws will facilitate the implementation and reduce crime as well. Although there are many factors, education is the most important part. Education does not only refer to advices and information dissemination. The behavior of each person has also an important aspect. A good behavior is a good education, and a bad behavior reflects a bad education for the society. There is a case, which I would like to draw your attention to. Please do not commit crime vis-à-vis the offenders. The offenders must be judged under the laws. No one has a right to torture the offenders including the police. We say, we hate crimes and the criminals. However, we should not commit offense against the offenders just out of hatred.
[Ad-lib Comments] In this point I would like to have the attention more of the competent authorities rather than those of the judges and prosecutors. Our task is to defend justice from offense but we could instead commit guilt and the result of which would take us to hell. Those who committed guilt in this sense would go only to one level of hell but those who committed further offense would go to a deeper level. The accused person had already committed guilt and further penalization is not necessary. Their hands are cuffed and they were beaten. So I wish to make an appeal to our people throughout the country to refrain from committing crimes on any criminal being and let them be tried by law. I tend to agree with the conclusion that killings of criminals happened because of the people lost their confidence in the court. But there is another factor that we should also give attention to and it has been a bad habit since when Cambodia was under the Khmer Rouge regime. We had war and it was a protracted one. Most of us knew about war before anything else from birth and it was noted that the prisoner of war in any places always suffered injustice action committed by those who won. The game of the fish eating the ant when water floods, and the ant eating the fish when the water recedes had become a habit in stilled in the Cambodian political package. Now we have ended this situation completely thanks to the implementation of the win-win policy, from which no one is left as a loser. But we all agree that we have the legacy of war and one of which is if one person is identified as a criminal of any action he did, take for instance theft, he has to be punished. Sometimes he could get killed and sometimes he died of no criminal record. So I wish to place my appeal to our citizen throughout the country that if a person is suspicious of being a thief or a guilty person of any sort, please arrest him and give him to the competent authority so that he will be sent to the court. Please refrain from violence action in solving this matter. In the district of Dangkao last year, two persons were killed but in the end they were not the guilty persons at all. So education and awareness raising in this matter is necessary.[End]
Secondly, we are lacking a physical facilities, particularly the court building, almost everywhere in the country. In this respect, I always pay my utmost attention and trying to find a strategic solution to respond to this need.
[Ad-lib Comments] I have closely followed the report of HE Dith Munti about the state of the school. It is true that some parts are in wood and some are in concrete, and what is more important of all is that it does not possess a proper look as a place where justice is protected and provided. But we are poor though the place may be improper we should then try to cope with this issue step by step. You may be warned not to ask for Riels 50 billion in 2003 despite its importance for addressing this need. It is two different things that we have money to build the court and we do not have money to build road. We have a huge need for infrastructure ranging from road, bridge, water canal, and on top of these we have requirements in other areas as well. I made a recommendation when we passed the budget bill at the Cabinet’s meeting at the Council of Ministers that we should provide funding only to those projects that are urgent and prioritized. If we talk about projects that are necessary, all of them are. But we all know that some projects despite the fact that they are necessary, they may not be urgent. Take the bridge damage into consideration it is necessary and urgent. So the budget has to be prepared and diverted to this kind of project. The fact that I am talking like this is because we do not have money and if we were to get money we may have to tax from our farmers. Take for example we may tax 50,000 to Riels 100,000 from our farmers to build offices or to increase salary for our Government employees, it is tantamount to squeezing out money from our farmers. We should understand their situation and the fact that they are left to pay no tax. I hope that all donor countries similarly understand this situation and its reason that the Cambodian farmer are still poor compared to farmers in other countries, Thailand for example.[End]
Thirdly, from now on we should listen to various complaints made by the public in order to improve the judiciary redress. The prerogative of judges is a power which no one can abuse. However, prerogative does not mean that one can decide everything in his/her capacity. Prerogative is the power for judges to decide based on the laws- evidence- witness, etc. With regard to prerogative of judges, I am obliged only to raise the complaints and the public views which I heard for the attention of our judges, such as the decision of detaining without necessity especially in felony cases, the negligence in reviewing documents submitted by parties to the case and unscrupulous investigation makes people feel dissatisfied. All these complaints, I believe, is a voice that can be a good friend for the prerogative of judges. I wish you all could see the difficulties of the people, and if we clearly see the difficulties of the people we will definitely know how to deal with them? Therefore, I believe that prerogative is not only an effective power of magistrate, but it is also morale, a conscience and the life of each judge. For me, I also believe that prerogative of judge has to avoid four sins: Chhantea Kete, Tosa Kete, Moha Kete and Pheakyea Kete.
[Ad-lib Comments] Let me add something about this incident in which there was this problem of the circulation issued by the General Commissar of the National Police addressing to the Police Commissars throughout the country. I wish the Ministry of Interior give its inspection on the matter and make it aligned with law. I think it is not yet the matter for the Prime Minister to act. The national police work under the authority of the Ministry of Interior so I wish the authoritative institution to take the matter for consideration. I wish also that HE Head of the Supreme Court, who is also the co-chairman of the reform prepares a letter with all the recommendation of the seminar to HE Minister of Interior so that he could advise institutions under his authority. I will act on this matter if I see that the circulation issued by the Ministry of Interior is inappropriate. Otherwise we would find no solution to the issue and we will continue to have accusations from the police to the military police, and vice versa…
… I have noticed that we have here some foreigners and also the presence of Madame the Representative for Human Rights in Phnom Penh. May I make one simple request? I request that they do not act as if they are both the prosecutor and the judge. I consider my request as the demand of the sovereign state. I see that there is this problem of when the foreigners are making complaints, the accused have to go to jail. If some people are accused by the foreigners and did not go to jail, the latter will issued their condemnation. I do not understand from where this justice system is coming from. Like what happened in Kompong Cham province, there was an accusation and the provincial court in Kompong Cham judged that the accused is to be free of guilt. The prosecutor there brought the issue to appeal court. Coincidentally the human rights group issued a declaration denouncing the provincial court on their judgement. This is what I called they acted as if they are both prosecutor and judge. Why should we need to have the Cambodian court then? Should not we have only your group?…
… I have ordered the investigation into the case of Global Witness and HE British Ambassador is also here present today. There was an accusation that the Cambodian police killed a person and caused a number of injuries. In reality that incident does not exist. In this case, would the person/institution who makes fault accusation be convicted? If this case has to go to the international court, we also should take it there too in order to find justice and to go on with the forest reform project. What I want is nothing but the truth. If the police is found to cause death and injuries to the demonstrators, I would not hesitate to order those policemen arrested and brought to justice. But if the accusation is false, and Mr. Leuprecht has also made a declaration based on false fact, what would happen to him and to Global Witness? I do not cause the matter but as a sovereign state I could not sit aside.
… We all here had gone through various sufferings. In 1979, after going through the massive killings, we survive with all sorts of punishment. Twenty-three years later, they demand with pressure that we tried the Khmer Rouge. We could survive no further injustice, no matter from whatever circle it may be. You all here may know already that the Khmer Rouge killed so many people here, and they were allowed to sit in the United Nations. We all liberated the country and started to rebuild the country from scratch, we continued to be punished while the Khmer Rouge was in the United Nations. When we out-rooted the Khmer Rouge militarily and politically, and arrested Ta Mok, they pressurize us with an international standard trial… I have got HE Sok An prepared to go to the United Nations on January 6 to continue with this discussion. So we have to seek justice from this hour onward. Whatever accusation made unjustly, including the one made by Global Witness, has to be resolved. Let’s see the footage by Global Witness itself. Global Witness once asked for an apology, and I did give them. But this time it is not a problem of who goes and who stays, but the problem of seeking justice. Let’s find out where the dead is and the people whom they have claimed to be wounded by the policemen. Whoever the policemen may be committed that act would be arrested. But if they could not provide those proofs, who would then take the charge? Would the one who accused take the charge? We would not stop the forest sector reform, but we will have to find a stronger organization than Global Witness to continue the monitoring work. HE Chan Sarum only sent the letter to cancel Global Witness and requesting for a new monitoring organization to replace it… We have yet to decide who would sue Global Witness, the Royal Government, the Ministry of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries or the Police… That is all what I said. Please do not take both prosecutor and Judge’s roles. Because if the Judge is giving a verdict that suits one’s interest, one welcomes it. But if the verdict contradicts with one’s opinion, one denounces it. From whom should I really learn in this matter? After all, we should refrain from acting on behalf of the court. One it issues a verdict, we have to respect. If one disagreed, they may take it to appeal or the Supreme Court… I would not just grant a yes to anything because I am one of those who survived on the stump of the banana to rebuild this nation. This city lived only 70 people and now we have more than expected. Before the accidents caused by mines was registered up to 1000 people per month, while the accidents caused by traffic was registered at less than one hundred. On the contrary, the traffic accident rises to about 1000, while mines accident came down to less than 300.
… Now we have many cases of conflict on land ownership and as HE Dith Munti said to the seminar, it is not appropriate to provide a verdict and to issue ownership at the same time. The Ministry of Urban Planning, Construction and Land Management has the right to issue ownership title. If the court does this job it is like the court is violating the state affairs. The state is the body who provides land ownership to the people through the Ministry of Land Management. We could not afford to duplicate the titles… [End]
The reform can be successful only if there is a wide participation from state institutions, government officials at all levels, civilians, non-government organizations, civil societies and especially from excellencies, ladies and gentlemen who are the actors in this judicial system. Hence, may I appeal to the seminar, government officials at all levels, military forces, all civilians, to unite together and try our best to overcome obstacles at this critical time in order to realize the objectives of our people, push the ship of Cambodia to the shore ” Cambodia is a government of human rights, rule based, justice, democracy and poverty eradication”.
Finally, I wish a great success to the Seminar, especially on the occasion of international new year 2003 may the God of the New Year bring happiness and prosperity to all participants of the Seminar and I personally wish you all the five gems of Buddha blessings and the other two blessings namely, development and happiness for ever and after.