Cambodia’s judicial reforms are lagging behind the country’s other efforts to overhaul a society virtually destroyed by decades of war, Prime Minister Hun Sen said Monday during an address marking International Human Rights Day.
“The problems of temporary detention of suspects beyond the legal time frame will definitely be addressed,” he said, referring to an issue that has drawn repeated complaints from legal experts, international law groups and aid organizations.
He said judges’ salaries would be revised, a measure that could help combat the rampant corruption many say interferes with due process in Cambodia. Judges and prosecutors are frequently accused of taking bribes to settle cases. Still, the prime minister said the country has made great gains in human rights in recent years.
“The climate of peace that has prevailed in the past few years has increased security and reduced crime,” he said. The rapid alleviation of poverty is now the government’s highest priority, he added.
Hun Sen said he looked forward to the commune elections scheduled for Feb 3—elections that likely will be closely watched by the international community as a sign of progress in Cambodia’s ongoing attempts to establish democracy.
“Our success is not based on which party wins the political elections,” Hun Sen said. “Our success will depend on whether or not the elections are free and fair, nonviolent and free of political intimidation.”
Hun Sen’s tone was decidedly relaxed a week after he made headlines by calling the UN special human rights envoy Peter Leuprecht “stupid” after critical remarks Leuprecht made about human rights in Cambodia.
The prime minister last week said Leuprecht’s charge that the government had relocated poor families in Poipet onto a mined area “a stupidity.”
But deminers from the Cambodian Mine Action Center found two mines in the area last Friday, according to Senator Khem Sokha. Officials downplayed the report on Monday.
“I think that in their reports, CMAC never met any people who have a danger from the mines, from the past until now,” said Om Yentieng, the chairman of the Cambodian Human Rights Committee and top adviser to Hun Sen.
He said remarks about a minefield in the area of the resettlement were a “misunderstanding.”