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Logo of Phnom Penh Post newspaper Phnom Penh Post - National security law on drawing board

National security law on drawing board

T HE government is planning a Security Act to introduce new measures against

breaches of national security, including political crimes.

The law, which

one foreign observer warned could be designed to clamp down on political

dissent, is expected to be broad.

Minister of Information Ieng Mouly

suggested it could include a new crime of "genocide" for Khmer Rouge to be

charged with, a new military justice code for government soldiers, and clear

definitions of "national security" and "political stability" for the prosecution

of journalists.

But the substance of the law, unlikely to be drafted for

some time, has yet to be officially decided.

Mouly said the law was

necessary to prevent the incitement of violence against the government or

constitution, or in support of the Khmer Rouge.

"First, we still have to

fight the Khmer Rouge and we must not underestimate their strength, despite that

they are weak militarily.

"They still have a lot of money and we have a

lot of poor people. Those poor people can easily be tempted to take money and do

something against national security."

Though the government already had

legislation outlawing the KR, he said a Security Act could introduce new charges

such as genocide for captured guerrillas.

There could also be new

provisions to punish soldiers who betrayed military secrets to the Khmer Rouge

or foreign governments.

Mouly expected the Security Act would also

include definitions of "national security" and "political stability".

The

new press law allows journalists to be punished for publishing articles which

"affect" national security or political stability, but leaves both terms

undefined.

Mouly confirmed that journalists might be prosecuted under

both the press law and the Security Act, but was adamant that freedom of

expression would remain protected.

"If you read the newspapers, every day

there is criticism against the government. I don't see in the future, even with

the Security Act, that people will be put in jail just for criticism of the

government."

Mouly proposed that national security crimes be defined as

acts which betray military secrets or incite war.

Offenses against

political stability, meanwhile, could include inciting people to break the law

to oppose the government or the constitutional monarchy.

On the

constitution, he said people should be free to "form an opinion" that the

constitution should be changed, but not to promote violence to change

it.

Mouly defended the Security Act as part of the government's updating

of its criminal, civil and military codes to replace former State of Cambodia

law. There was nothing unusual about it, he said.

"I think in every

country you have a security act, especially in this region."

Mouly said

he was only expressing his own thoughts on what could be in the law, not

government policy.

The law was to be drafted by an inter-ministerial

committee, primarily from the Interior and Defense ministries. The main idea for

the law came from the Interior Ministry, he said.

But Co-Minister of

Interior You Hockry said he had not thought about what should be in the law.

"We haven't brainstormed on this. It's too early. I think this is a plan

but nothing much has been done on it as yet."

Minister of Defense Tea

Banh said: "I don't know who is responsible for drafting that law and I don't

know what will be in it."

A foreign human rights lawyer, who would not be

named, said there was no need for a Security Act.

The government already

had a law against the KR, the press law and an adequate criminal code, he said.

The "only ground left" uncovered by the government was "political

crimes."

"The only thing left for them to do is to try to do something to

deal with political dissent, and that's what this law would be designed

for."

Repressive provisions such as preventative detention, censorship

and restrictions on political parties could be in the law, if Cambodia followed

the example of some neighbors. Malaysia's security law, for instance, allowed

preventative detention and the general suspension of the rights of people

accused of plotting national security crimes.

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