New justice minister pledges to clear criminal case logjam

New Justice Minister Koeut Rith pledged on Monday to prioritize clearing the growing backlog of cases before Cambodia’s courts, blaming campaigns against minor drug and environmental crimes for putting offenders into the legal system at a faster rate than prosecutors and prisons can handle.

Rith replaced Justice Minister Ang Vong Vathana — who had been in the role for more than 15 years — in the government’s cabinet reshuffle in March, which was promoted by Prime Minister Hun Sen as a sign of coming reform.

Speaking at a press conference in Phnom Penh, Rith said the recent campaigns against environmental and drug crimes had been almost too effective in arresting accused wrongdoers, with a tardy and bureaucratic legal system overwhelmed.

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