Hundreds of national and provincial police and government officials flocked to Phnom Penh Thursday for the annual conference of the Ministry of the Interior to discuss last year’s achievements and look to this year’s challenges.
“We’ve had successes in the year 2001, especially the achievement of a legal framework to carry out decentralization policies, including the commune election law,” said Deputy Prime Minister Sar Kheng, who chaired the conference, along with co-Minister of the Interior You Hokry.
Officials were most proud of what they called a reduction in crime in 2001, including the successful conclusion of trials against dozens of defendants alleged to have belonged to the Cambodian Freedom Fighters, the group that admitted staging a failed coup in Phnom Penh in November 2000, Sar Kheng said in his opening remarks at the Ministry of Interior.
“We have cracked down on the CFF, led by Chhun Yasith, the terrorists who made bomb explosions, kidnapping cases, armed robbery—we have cracked down and arrested them all in time,” Sar Kheng said.
Chhun Yasith, who lives in the US state of California, was among dozens convicted during two CFF trials. Phnom Penh Judge Sok Setha Mony sentenced Chhun Yasith to life in prison in absentia. The expatriate accountant has admitted he is currently under federal investigation in the US for violating that country’s neutrality laws.
He had promised another raid in Cambodia before the end of 2001, but it never materialized.
Last July, separate explosions ripped through two Phnom Penh hotels, killing at least three people. A group calling itself “Maria” took credit for the bombings, which police attributed to a plot to extort money from the hotel owners.
Looking ahead to 2002, Sar Kheng said the government is focusing on four “important points.”
“First, there is the administration and national police reform. Second, local and administrative management of all levels of the police force. Third, to maintain security and public order. Fourth, to resolve land disputes,” Sar Kheng said.
The meeting is scheduled to conclude today at 4 pm with closing remarks by Prime Minister Hun Sen.