A coroner’s office could give peace of mind to grieving families, bring justice to victims of violence or foul play and strengthen Cambodia’s judicial system, officials said Wednesday.
About 75 government, medical and legal officials gathered at the Sunway Hotel for the first-ever conference on forensic medicine in Cambodia.
Delegates, including Minister of Justice Uk Vithon, called for Cambodia to develop its own forensic medical program, including a coroner’s office to determine the cause and manner of suspicious deaths.
“Investigation by forensic medicine is a good way to find more evidence, to find justice for victims or suspects, and could help to boost the courts’ involvement in criminal cases,” Uk Vithon said during the closing remarks at the conference.
Although some delegates voiced concerns about whether a developing nation should focus on what they considered a minor need, other delegates pointed to Sri Lanka’s forensics program as a model that might fit Cambodia’s budget and aspirations.
“The coroner is very important—we must have one in the country,” said Lek Se, a Phnom Penh doctor who studied forensics in Sri Lanka.
As it stands, many suspicious deaths could be passing unnoticed in Cambodia, Lek Se said.
For instance, police automatically rule a death a suicide when they find a body hanging from a rope.
He said a competent coroner would make it harder for criminals to disguise homicides as suicides by throwing a body into a river to destroy obvious signs of foul play.
In Sri Lanka, all suspicious deaths are investigated by coroners, Lek Se said, adding he saw no reason why Cambodia should not do the same.
The delegates promised to send their proposals on to the government. The potential budget required to run a medical examiner’s office was not discussed during the one-day conference.