Minister Enlists Prosecutors to Stop Crime Wave

In the wake of a crime spree that drew a public expression of concern from Prime Minister Hun Sen earlier this month, Justice Min­ister Ang Vong Vathana met with senior prosecutors from Phnom Penh and all 24 provinces on Fri­day and ordered them to ex­pedite investigations into all open criminal cases, especially those in­volv­ing armed robbery.

Mr. Vong Vathana also re­sponded to the prime minister’s call to more carefully vet inmates for possible early release, saying he would meet with prison officials to discuss excluding convicted armed robbers from such ar­rangements, according to Keut Rith, an undersecretary of state at the ministry, who briefed the press after the event.

“His excellency [Mr. Vong Vatha­na] advised them [the prosecutors] to review all case files be­ing handled by prosecutors and court in­sti­tutions and make sure to work quickly and thoroughly” to wrap up investigations, Mr. Rith told re­porters at the Justice Ministry.

“His excellency the minister will have individual meetings with [pro­vincial] prison departments to re­view reduced sentences and pardons,” he said without providing further details.

Mr. Rith added that Justice Min­istry officials would also meet with the National Police and National Military Police on Tuesday to draft a plan to increase security in public spaces.

In a speech on Monday, Mr. Hun Sen ordered authorities to “crack down” on the armed gangs responsible for a rash of violent—and in some cases deadly—robberies that seemingly began in mid-November with the death of a 13-year-old boy who was shot with an assault rifle when two men attempted to steal his brother’s new Honda Dream in Kampot province.

That crime was followed by a string of similarly brazen motorbike robberies that came to a cre­scendo on December 11 when Phnom Penh military police were drawn into a firefight with two mem­bers of a gang that murdered a young man for his Honda Dream earlier in the day.

And last weekend, gunmen staged three separate armed robberies in three provinces—Kandal, Pursat and Battambang—shooting a woman dead and making off with more than $330,000 worth of gold and cash.

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