This is my reaction (opinion) to First Prime Minister Prince Norodom Ranariddh's proposed amendment to the constitution
concerning capital punishment.
I have met and worked briefly with Prince Ranariddh on two occasions during my tenure as an instructor at the University
of Fine Arts, Faculty of Architecture in 1993-94. I have nothing but high marks for His Highness' remarkable two-year
duties as a Prime Minister in difficult situations in Cambodia. However, I and others are questioning the logic
or reasoning behind the need for capital punishment in small nation such as Cambodia. Is it really necessary? Is
it the right time or place? I and many others do not think so.
Cambodia has just woken up from a nightmare where her population (estimated at under 10 million) has hardly increased
in the last 25 years. The social, political, economic, and environmental standard has not yet reached an adequate
level to handle policy that may or may not be necessary or beneficial to the people in the Kingdom. Although capital
punishment is a well-known practice in many developed nations, such as the United States where her population is
about 26 times bigger than Cambodia's, many people have questioned its necessity and benefit.
A small nation with a tiny population like Cambodia can't possibly afford to lose any more of her people. It is
not logical to destroy any more Khmers' lives, even if they belong to hard-core criminals. What Cambodia needs
is a solid justice system so that all people, such as Dr Gavin Scott, the infamous "Balloon six," and
others don't rot in jail for 3 months, 3 weeks, or not even for 3 days without a trial. Being in jail or prison
without a trial is bad enough, but the idea that one may end up getting the death penalty by state law as well
should be horrific for anyone. Will that deter criminals from continuing with their activities? There hasn't been
a strong record or statistic of that yet. What Cambodia also needs in place of capital punishment is a strong incarceration
and rehabilitation system (not necessarily the same standard as in developed nations) to handle hard-core criminals
such as murderers. All criminals, regardless, have to earn their daily meals and other expenses by doing much needed
public service, in chain and under armed guards of course. In addition, they have to serve their sentence in full.
Their economic standing (rich or poor) should not be a factor as it might have been in the past where those with
money or influence get out on the street a lot sooner. With such systems in place, Cambodia certainly doesn't need
capital punishment like other "civilized" nations on earth, who have plenty of hard-core criminals to
Let's look at it this way: if capital punishment is amended in the constitution, it could lead to abuse by those
who are in power. It is open wide to interpretation. For instance, a political dissident such as the former MP,
Mr Sam Rainsy, could be labeled a "traitor" and may well get the death penalty, imagine that! What about
the ten of thousands of Khmer Rouge? Yes, we must not forget the KR. Shouldn't they all get death penalty too?
Most of them, if not all, are serial killers and some of them are currently serving in the Royal Government. There
is no statue of limitation for murder, especially in cold blood. They killed most of my family, hundreds of my
neighbors, and millions other innocent Khmers throughout Cambodia in cold blood. Now, shouldn't they all be qualified
for a "FREE" death penalty too? Despite earning a reputation as one of the world's "most efficient
killing machines" in the past two decades, I think that Khmers are still too civilized, too decent, and too
wise to have-state sponsored execution.
With all do respect, I certainly hope that His Highness First Prime Minister Prince Norodom Ranariddh reconsiders
the decision that has been made, perhaps without considering the consequences. It is neither the right time nor
it is the right place to have such a policy. It is absolutely not needed, unless His Highness wishes to eradicate
the Khmer as a race.
- Ronnie Yimsut, A very concerned native Khmer, Oregon, USA
(Prince Ranariddh has already said he will abide by the wishes of King Norodom Sihanouk, who has publicly opposed
the introduction of the death penalty - Ed.)