A government report on human rights says nepotism and corruption continue to plague Cambodia, but positive efforts to collect weapons, train lawyers and judges, and curb bribery have reduced crime and government waste.
The report also claims that a series of killings suspected of being politically motivated in the run-up to the Feb 3 commune elections had nothing to do with politics.
“The people who committed those crimes were punished by the courts. Those were criminal [not political] cases,” said Om Yentieng, chairman of the Cambodia Human Rights Committee and Prime Minister Hun Sen’s top human rights adviser.
Deputy Prime Minister Sar Kheng said slayings should be thoroughly investigated, whether they carry suspicions of a political motive or not.
“When a political party hears a murder happened, it always claims the victim was its member to draw more popularity, although sometimes the victim is not the party’s member,” Sar Kheng said. “It is not important at all [if] the claim is political or not, but the importance is when the murder occurs, the suspect must be found out and arrested.”
The report, released Monday on International Human Rights Day, mentions few of the concerns raised by Peter Leuprecht, the UN’s special envoy for human rights in Cambodia, when Leuprecht addressed the UN in New York last month.
Cambodia’s human rights problems are severe, Leuprecht said, and include the forced exploitation of women and children for sex, weak protections for labor unions and bad conditions in Cambodian prisons.
The committee delivered its report Monday at a governmental human rights gathering at Chaktomuk Theater, a day on which local newspapers carried stories of a mob killing of a suspected motorcycle thief, the fatal shooting of a Sam Rainsy party activist, and a charge that a government resettlement plan has placed poor people from Poipet near an area with land mines.
Government measures on education and weapons collection have cut crime, Om Yentieng contended.
The report noted a decrease by 1,167 in the number of penal offenses during the first nine months of this year when compared to the same period last year. According to the report, 333 people were killed so far this year, slightly more than one a day, fewer than the same period last year, Om Yentieng said.
The report also noted that a gun-collection program started in 1999 resulted in 114,733 guns being turned over for destruction during the first nine months of 2001. Half of the weapons already have been destroyed. Some 130,000 guns have been collected and destroyed since 1999.
About 9,000 “ghost soldiers” were removed from government payrolls this year as the process of demobilization moves ahead, the report stated.
The ghost soldiers’ pay was generally thought to be going to corrupt military leaders who either made up fake names of nonexistent soldiers or failed to report deaths or retirements.