Along with the prepared text, Samdech Hun Sen made the following comments citing issues of new epidemics and recent increase of crimes in face of misconduct and illegal release of convicts by some rogue legal officials.
… I have a great pleasure to take this opportune moment to talk to the whole people of Cambodia on the health issue. We have to fight and fight hard with hidden viruses take for instance those bringing about HIV/AIDS, SARS and bird flu. Though I have talked in the beginning a lot about health problem per se, but I thought there was another virus or kind of health that our society has been prone to infections. It is robbery. That has a severe repercussion on the people’s mental health because the robbery and theft is on the increase.
… In just a few days, especially yesterday and the day before yesterday, I ordered an immediate arrest of a group of armed robbers who, after being caught, have been free from prosecuted by certain judges and/or prosecutors. This is way dangerous for our society and I am sure the level of its threat could be more serious than that of HIV/AIDS. The Royal Government of Cambodia, if I may inform you today, has been paying serious attention to providing peace and security for the people of Cambodia. The implementation of the win-win policy that I put out aimed at putting an end to Cambodia’s protracted war has finally brought Cambodia peace and security.
… Actions have been taken to prevent our people’s security from being jeopardized by robberies and thefts. We have brought about numerous successes. But the achievement today is being discredited by a certain number of individuals in the court of justice – judges and/or prosecutors – by whose irresponsible actions more of our people’s blood continues to be spilt and their sufferings and property being robbed. Many Cambodians are left with broken families, but justice for them was never provided. What I am talking about here is that when justice is yet to be done, the convicts have been released from custody and they get back to committing offenses again and again. This is why I said our society is facing another serious disease – which is as dangerous as HIV/AIDS or hidden mines.
… Our people may understand that we have three powers – the Senate and the National Assembly or the legislative, the Royal Government or the executive and the power of the court. In this situation, the Royal Government has taken necessary and strictest measures within its competence, after which all cases were sent to the court. When I say the court I do not mean every one but some individuals who infected the system. As of now HE Sok An is conducting an urgent meeting at the Council of Ministers to set out measures to deal with this matter. According to HE Deputy Prime Minister Sar Kheng and HRH Samdech Krom Khun Sereivudh, in 2004 and early 2005 alone, 300 convicted robbers have been set free, let alone in Phnom Penh, 274 cases of convicted armed robberies have been discharged.
… What have we done now? I have ordered the re-arrest of the convicts and five of them were arrested. They all confessed that they bribed the system so as to get out of the prison. This is the matter that we should pursue to the Municipal Court of Phnom Penh. How do they do it? For one, it is a failure to prosecute, and two, it is an inappropriate decision made on how serious the crime is to press charge. What we will do next is to arrest those criminals, whether they are judges or prosecutors, who have acted in collusion with those offenders. I have instructed an inquiry to be made with the Constitutional Council whether and how they could be arrested. I would clarify that we arrest individuals for the offense they have committed, and not the good judges.
… According to the Constitution, no one is above the law and every Cambodian is equal before the law. So punishment can also be carried out for everyone, the Prime Minister is also included, if he is caught guilty… [Samdech Prime Minister is citing articles related in the civil codes]. The conviction discharge must be sent to the plaintiff within seven days at the latest, and on condition that the plaintiff disagrees, he/she could therefore appeal further, even to the Minister of Justice, starting from the time he/she receives the sentence. What I want to clarify here is that if a conviction discharge is to be applied, the prosecutor must be immediately informed while the offenders are still in detention. What we have found here is the fact that neither the prosecutor nor the plaintiff is informed of the move.
… Because of this the robbers were set free and returned to robbery and the case could be repeated several times. Because there has been some kind of collusion that the Article 90 of the Code of Civil Procedure was not appropriately applied, prosecution has never been decided. I find this unacceptable and we have to conduct serious investigation into all hundreds of them, 274 cases for Phnom Penh alone. I received a letter from the Minister of Justice with a commitment that a strict pursuance will be conducted into the 274 cases, and will decide on how many of them will have to be invoked. These are what we need to do in terms of prosecution avoidance move.
… Now I am ordering the re-investigation into seven cases, one of which has passed away. Five of them have been re-arrested, and one is under search and arrest warrant. Any action that will be taken will not be against the court as a whole but individual judge and/or prosecutor who have committed wrongdoings. This should not be taken as a violation of the court’s independence. Actions will be taken on the basis of law and according to the Constitution. Those rogue legal officials must be reprimanded.
… Concerning the inappropriate decision made on how serious the crime is to press charge, [citing Article 6] … sentence would be made to give a fifteen to twenty years of imprisonment or life imprisonment. It is stipulated in the law as such that a minimum of five year prison term should be the decision to start with, while the decision on the seriousness of the crime could not be less than this minimum. As far as the case is concerned, the term for imprisonment spans between fifteen and twenty years or life imprisonment.
… According to the report filed and sent to me by the Co-Ministers for Interior on the problem of convicted robbers, thieves that were set free by 08 Municipal and Provincial Courts, there are in all 369 cases, 203 were robbers and 166 were thieves. Among them, 108 served only one year term of imprisonment, and 261 served less than one year term of imprisonment. According to the law, the robbers must be sentenced to the minimum five year term of imprisonment. As cited above, these chaps have been sentenced to only one or less than one year imprisonment. Take for instance, the case of Keo Sophat, he was arrested on April 29, 2003 on robbery charge, and he was set free on August 28 of the same year. The case of Kim Chharn was arrested on February 01, 2003 also on robbery charge, and he was set free on August 09, 2003. What on earth could the crime of a minimum of five year imprisonment could be reduced to just four months.
… These are serious issues. The Ministry of Justice will review all trouble cases, and will decide on who will need to be re-arrested. We also have the UNTAC law to depend on, especially the Article 66 on count of acting in collusion. I wish to declare from today to launch the campaign to fight against thefts and those acting in collusion with them. The Ministry of Justice has proposed to the Supreme Council of Magistracy to set up an investigation commission on count of irregular release on September 16, 2004. The Royal Government sees that it is important to place the prosecutor under the control of the Ministry of Justice and the General Prosecutor under the Court of Appeal. If we fail to do so, we would continue to face with same problem.
… If the prosecutor fails to take legal action, the Ministry of Justice will take the case for inspection. The prosecutor in this case will be summoned for immediate investigation. We would not have similar chance for the judge as only the Supreme Council of Judges is empowered to do so. But as long as we are committed to see this matter solved, we have to find a way to deal with both the rogue judges and prosecutors or they would take law into their own hands without giving a fraction of care and thought to the livelihood of the people. This would damage the whole image of the country, while efforts have been made by the legislation – the Senate, the National Assembly, and the executive power – the Royal Government of Cambodia for the sake of the country’s development.
… I appeal to the Supreme Council of Magistracy to revive the image of the courts and to help the Royal Government in taking care of our people’s lives, properties, and their peaceful lives. This would indeed a valuable contribution to the legal reforms. At the same time we have also noticed that for some people, their cases have been left unattended because of what they termed as lacking of legal representatives/notaries. Why for the above cases have been processed so quickly. Thieves and attorneys may have connections as an organization and to take action against this case would require more than just the Royal Government’s efforts.
… Because of inappropriate legal actions, the results have never been satisfied, the people have taken the death sentence to the street on almost every robbers or thefts caught. They do not have belief in the legal system as those who have been caught and dent to the court happened to come back again and again in robbery actions. This is what I called social health that is facing with serious danger. It is inapplicable if we resort to increasing number of police, soldiers, military police, judges or prosecutors. It is especially true that the Municipal Court of Phnom Penh has to undergo serious reform.
… If this is to continue without positive change, what the Royal Government has claimed to do would be unrealistic. On the revenue collection front, in the last few months we have noted increase in the revenue from the day when we had the national conference, where we are able to increase 15% of the salary for civil servants, and we could do more if the tax collection in the coming year continues in this trend. We have a triangular power in managing our country – but the power of the court seems to have failed.
… I hope that our people will allow some more time for the Royal Government and related institutions, the court also included to figure out continuing reform towards ending incidences of abduction, armed robberies for the sake of their peaceful livelihood after hard life under the Khmer Rouge genocide and wars. Their hardships have been far beyond description and for their safety and peaceful life, we could not spare our efforts in fighting rogue legal officials./.