Hun Sen Defends ‘Iron Fist’ Reform Approach

Pushing forward with his “iron fist” approach to judicial reform, Prime Minister Hun Sen on Wed­nes­day compared his recent or­der to re-arrest suspects and criminals al­legedly released in ex­change for bribes with lethal tactics used against drug traffickers in Thai­land.

Though Thai Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra was criticized for his heavy-handed fight against drugs in 2003, which killed more than 2,000 people in a three-month period, Hun Sen noted that Thak­sin maintained his popularity at the polls.

“Thaksin did not use the court, but the police to shoot and kill al­most 5,000 criminals. But Thak­sin Shinawatra [still] won the most votes in the election,” Hun Sen said in a speech at the Institute of Technology & Management in Phnom Penh.

“But I won’t do it like that,” he added. “[I will] only have them ar­rested and prosecuted.”

Responding to critics of his “iron fist” measures, Hun Sen accused human rights officials of ignoring the plight of the victims whose of­fenders may have been wrongfully released by the courts.

“Human rights officials visit the thieves but not the victims,” Hun Sen said.

“Thieves are the enemies of the premier and the people, but they could be friends of some human rights [groups], prosecutors and judges,” he said.

He added that if “a network of collusion” is found linking criminals to prosecutors, judges and human rights officials, all involved must be arrested.

Critics of Hun Sen’s order for the re-arrests last week warn that the government is treading too deeply into what should be the in­dependent territory of the courts.

Others have pointed out that two senior court officials fired in 1999 for alleged bribe-taking were only later reappointed—in at least one case to a more senior position—and question whether the same will happen with court officials reprimanded this time around.

Hun Sen, however, said Wed­nes­day that he is firm in his re­newed commitment to judicial re­form.

“This reform will never walk backward,” he said.


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