Assembly Ups Penalty for Rapist-Murderers

In a third day of dramatic changes to Cambodia’s penal code, National Assembly members voted overwhelmingly to lengthen the sentence for those convicted of committing premeditated murder during a robbery or rape.

Offenders now face 20 years to life in prison with hard labor rather than the maximum of 10 years mandated by the Untac criminal code.

Funcinpec lawmaker Nan Sy said the revised sentence was being adopted “at the right time, with fatally violent rape becoming rampant in Cambodian society.

“This is a good message to send to the bad [rapists] not to commit such serious crimes.”

The National Assembly, which voted 88-2 for the harsher sentences Thursday, is still debating specific penalties for rape.

Legislators also passed a law allowing courts to fine witnesses up to 500,000 riel ($128) if they agree to testify and then back out before the trial.

The original bill had set the fine at 100,000 to 1,000,000 riel ($26 to $256).

Funcinpec and Sam Rainsy Party legislators argued that the law might discourage witnesses from volunteering to testify.

“People who saw the brutality of…crimes in Cambodian society want to testify to seek justice for the victim, but when they see the law they will have a problem,” said Funcinpec lawmaker Nin Sin.

Deputy Prime Minister Sar Kheng said the fine was needed to ensure trial testimony and to fight intimidation of witnesses.

The National Assembly is also debating a proposed penal law that would impose heavier sentences for crimes such as rape and murder. Meanwhile, it is amending penal codes devised in the 1950s during the State of Cambodia period and in the early 1990s by Untac.

Sar Kheng said the new penal code is being reviewed by the Council of Ministers and won’t be finished until the end of 2002.

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