Seeking to punish foreign sex offenders arrested in Cambodia, government officials agreed Monday to ban sex suspects from Cambodia regardless of verdicts reached by the courts, which have been accused of mishandling recent cases.
The decision to bar sex suspects, even if they have not been convicted, was made by officials from the ministries of Interior, Justice, Women’s Affairs and Foreign Affairs, who met at the Council of Ministers to discuss ways of strengthening laws to punish foreign offenders.
A blacklist will be drawn up of all foreign sex crimes suspects, and those on the list will be denied a Cambodian visa when their current visa expires, said Minister of Women’s Affairs Mu Sochua. The list will be distributed to Cambodian embassies overseas and all border points to ensure blacklisted people never re-enter Cambodia.
“If [sex suspects] are still released by the court…they are on our blacklist, and when they finish their visa they will have to leave our country and not be able to return,” she said.
Prime Minister Hun Sen ordered Minister of Cabinet Sok An to convene the meeting, following a request by Mu Sochua, who said strong measures are needed to stop foreigners from exploiting women and children in Cambodia. She said they are not being punished adequately by the courts.
Meeting attendees also maintain that government officials involved in promoting sex tourism in Cambodia must face prosecution under laws on human trafficking, Mu Sochua said.
A draft sub-decree containing provisions strengthening the trafficking law should be passed by the end of the year, she said.
One human rights worker on Monday dubbed the planned blacklist a travesty for the rule of law in Cambodia. Targeting people merely suspected of committing crime is an abuse of human rights, said the rights workers, who requested anonymity.
The sub-decree would replace due legal process and the presumption of a suspect’s innocence with the presumption they are guilty, the rights worker said.
Mu Sochua appealed to human rights groups to be understanding given recent incidents of alleged sex offenders going unpunished.
Also at Monday’s meeting, the Ministry of Justice was asked to report to Hun Sen any court decisions regarding four foreigners accused of sex crimes who have come before Cambodian courts in the past six months.
The cases, brought to the attention of Hun Sen in an August 21 letter from Mu Sochua, include:
•Swiss national Rudolph Knuchel, arrested in Siem Reap on charges of debauchery against young boys.
•Belgian Rudy Demasure, accused of raping a 14-year-old girl.
•Chinese-Canadian Richard Chun, the owner of the Best Western Cangi Hotel in Phnom Penh, under investigation for allegedly trafficking seven East European women into the city’s sex trade.
•American Dan Sandler, expelled from Cambodia for setting up a pornographic Web site featuring local women.
Mu Sochua said the four will be placed on the blacklist.
Yet Chakriya, Phnom Penh Municipal Court deputy prosecutor, said the provisions will shore up gaps in the law which allow sex offenders go unpunished, though he continued to defend the court’s handling of recent cases.