Prime Minister Hun Sen on Thursday praised the court officials who sentenced his nephew to three years in prison over the shooting death of innocent passers-by following a car crash, and said the children of government officials who commit crimes will not be protected.
Addressing a gathering of the country’s top officials at the close of a three-day national seminar on good governance, Hun Sen said: “Children of government officials must be punished like normal children. We cannot forgive them, otherwise we cannot find equity in our society.”
Hun Sen’s speech touched on a number of issues including the re-emergence of illegal checkpoints on the country’s highways, the need for more courtrooms and a plan to meet King Norodom Sihamoni twice monthly.
Hun Sen also said he was happy his nephew Nhim Sophea was sentenced to prison.
“I thanked the judge who prosecuted my nephew because my nephew is safer staying in prison because if he is outside, he will cause more trouble,” Hun Sen said.
Nhim Sophea was sentenced to three years in prison in March after he was found guilty of involuntary manslaughter in relation to a car crash and the shooting deaths of three people on Oct 27, 2003.
Before the prime minister’s speech, Deputy Prime Minister Sok An called attention to the shortage of courtrooms in the country, a concern that was also voiced by Ministry of Justice officials at a separate conference on access to justice earlier in the day. In response, Hun Sen said the government will use hotels as courtrooms to move cases along faster.
“I want the courts to rent hotel rooms to set the trials because some prisoners have to stay in the prisons longer [than the law allows] waiting for room to prosecute them,” Hun Sen said.
The premier also urged provincial governors and officials to take taxis around their provinces and districts to find and crack down on illegal checkpoints.
He said if they take their own vehicles, the people manning the checkpoints will run before they get there.
Hun Sen said National Route 5 from Kompong Chhnang to Battambang was especially bad and many Cambodians were being robbed with little recourse.
“Please watch the road,” he said. “The illegal checkpoints are a very important issue.”
In an effort to improve business development and investment in Cambodia, Hun Sen also announced that the government will offer land to investors—both Cambodian and foreigners alike—in so-called industrial zones around the country.
Investors, however, will still have to pay a deposit on the land to ensure they actually use it and don’t try to sell the license to a third-party, the premier said.
He also promised to lead a delegation of ministers to meet with King Sihamoni twice a month to discuss specific issues.
Hun Sen said the first delegation is scheduled for Dec 24 and will include Agriculture Minister Chan Sarun.
He noted that unlike retired King Norodom Sihanouk, King Sihamoni is in good health and can hold such audiences.
Article 20 of the Constitution states, “The King shall grant an audience twice a month to the Prime Minister and the Council of Ministers to hear their reports on the State of the Nation.”
Those meetings, however, never materialized under the reign of Norodom Sihanouk.
(Additional reporting by Lee Berthiaume)