In addition to the prepared speech Samdech Hun Sen made comments on how Cambodia struggled to have its criminal procedure code in place and how UNTAC law was implemented and being replaced by the new code.
… I wish to stress some issues relating to the background of the code. After (the fall of) Pol Pot’s regime we can say that we have nothing. We have only a few decrees to authorize the establishment of a few institutions. Thing was getting better step by step until January 1992, the law of the State of Cambodia (SoC), and finally what we called the UNTAC Law. You may ask what UNTAC is. It is an abbreviation for the United Nations Transitional Authority in Cambodia.
Stipulated in the law, defamation is a crime that is punishable by imprisonment and/or fine. That was the law that was prepared by UNTAC for Cambodia. Defamation statement published on newspaper would be reprimanded as a punishable crime with possible imprisonment between 12 and 18 months. In reality, as the law was being observed, the Government was blamed of being oppressive for violating rights to expression. When we do not observe the law, the matter could not be brought to court for legal judgment.
It is not quite correct to say the United Nations’ mission is the most capable since perhaps they normally are composed of staff from various countries which makes them sometimes not quite capable as they deem to be.
In order to guarantee the right for expression the Royal Government of Cambodia decided to abolish imprisonment punishment from the code. We have turned away the first draft of the code too when it was prepared by the French legal assistance that defaming is a crime punishable by prison term. We have opted for professional development for the press when it comes to matter of criticizing.
I wish in this instance to appeal to the press that they should not, in absence of imprisonment term, take a reckless behavior by insulting or cursing so and so. They should resort to better way of presenting their differing opinion in a more acceptable tone. It was in this interest that I recommended in one of our Cabinet’s meeting to take that level of punishment out. Some countries, as we know, continue to observe this – take for instance France.
As for us we decided to get rid of that and let them deal with those discrepancies in civil procedural way. A man would not be dead just because he is to be insulted in the press. Take for instance I am the subject of defamation since 1979 and I am still here today. I am not the one to disappear because of the reckless insult but those who committed it are. I was badly insulted mostly by the Khmer Rouge… until it eventually disappeared – militarily and politically. We now are in the process of going to court for what had happened during that regime.
Again this should not be taken as an encouragement for increasing habit of insulting but we all should exercise restraint and patience. The Criminal Procedure Code (CPC) was signed by His Majesty the King on August 10, three days ago as of today, and it should take effect in the mean time.
There was another matter that hinders our way of handling this issue. As we had SoC’s and UNTAC’s codes in place, we then did not yet have the military police (MP) only until 1993. Indeed MP has three important roles – 1) to control over the military staff, 2) to serve public administration and 3) to serve as justice police. We have also added another area of responsibility for them. That is to take action in relation to combating human trafficking. We have, according to our law prepared with help from the French, enabled the Ministry of Women’s Affairs to take up justice police role in acting as plaintiff.
We have the Chhay Huor II human trafficking case that, everyone should know already, will continue to proceed. It is unacceptable that the case that is found guilty is being reprieved when it comes to the Appeal Court. We have now achieved better legal tools – Criminal Procedure and Civil Procedure Codes. Some ask why the Royal Government is so slow in proposing the law on corruption. How do we go about making that law while the two codes remain in limbo. I agree to the idea that we have to have a law to deal with it but in any law we have to have clauses of punishment.
When one does not abide by the law or misinterprets it one will have to be punished. Take for instance the case of Long Chehng Company that built a small city in the reservoir of Ta Mouk. I was so shameful when HE Shinohara, the Japanese Ambassador, said to me in our trip by helicopter to Banteay Mean Chey that “Look! a good development site down there.” I have asked for assistance from the Republic of Korea for financial assistance to keep it as a reservoir and I came to inaugurate the reservoir myself. I could not stand that this reservoir is being encroached upon for personal greed. When there is a will there is a way. We can do that before the emergence of corruption law.
Well this is what I wish to add on to the text. To recap what I have said it is a progressive step that we have removed clauses of defamation a punishable crime to imprisonment and I have made it clear that it was because of the fact that we have the 1992 – UNTAC law in supervision of our actions. As HE the French Ambassador said just now, we have now turned over the intermediary Law of UNTAC and the Criminal Procedure Code will come into its replacement as of we speak as well./.