National Police Commissioner Neth Savoeun said Tuesday that the police and courts should stop offering preferential treatment to the badly behaved children of the rich and powerful, and work on improving prisons to rid them of drugs and crime.
Speaking at a closed-door conference at Phnom Penh’s Cambodiana Hotel, General Savoeun said impunity no longer has a place in Cambodia.
“From now on…when there is a shooting, stop asking, ‘Whose son is that?’ and put them in jail,” Gen. Savoeun said, sitting on a panel alongside National Military Police Commander Sao Sokha and Justice Minister Ang Vong Vathana.
“If they have not been arrested, they need to be arrested,” he said. “There is no need to report on whose son it is or which tycoon’s child. Do not mention it. They are equal in society and the law…. This makes people comfortable.”
During the conference—titled “Strengthening the Capacity of the Courts and Judicial Police to Implement the Law to Prevent and Repress Penal Crimes”—Gen. Savoeun also raised the issue of petty criminals receiving disproportionately long jail sentences and then falling into a life of more serious crime.
“Sometimes, when the prisoners get into prison, they like to train in martial arts, and after they are released, their martial arts are improved,” Gen. Savoeun said. “Before, they did petty theft, but after being in prison with the robbers, [who] got a lot more money…they do more crimes.”
Gen. Savoeun went on to complain about drug trafficking inside the country’s prisons, which he said was being driven by new methods of trafficking, including some that take advantage of visitation rights afforded to prisoners.
“They are sweethearts, and the woman goes to visit her boyfriend and we do not have two-way mirrors like in other countries, and even though there is a small table separating them, they can lean in to kiss,” Mr. Savoeun said.
“In the modern era, they French kiss, and when they French kiss, the drugs are in the woman’s mouth, and they are pushed into his mouth, and even the camera cannot see it,” the police commissioner said. “Now at the prisons, they want to stop the French kissing.”
Mr. Vong Vathana, the justice minister, said during the conference that another concern facing the court system has been the loss of case files, which he said has led to people being imprisoned and never facing trial.
“I have observed five or six cases that have not gone to trial and people are still in prison,” Mr. Vong Vathana said, offering an example of one young man in prison.
“He was arrested when he was 15, and now he is 18 years old, and he is still in prison…as we have not solved this for him, and he continues to be a victim,” the justice minister said. “The prisons find this difficult, because they do not know what to do because there is no case file.
“[In prison], he has had no problems, but whether he was arrested wrongfully or not is not clear,” he added.
However, Mr. Vong Vathana said he still could not in good conscience release the young man, because it might turn out later that he had been jailed on murder charges.
“They ask us to release him, but then after the release, the case file may be found—that he is a murderer. Thus, I would be wrong, and so we cannot release him.”