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PM's crime crackdown

HUN SEN has unveiled an eight-point plan to fight crime and ensure national stability,

vowing to resign - after demoting other officials first - if he does not succeed.

Political observers suggested the crackdown was an attempt by Hun Sen to raise populist

support by targeting criminals, and ensure stability in the wake of his ouster of

co-Prime Minister Prince Norodom Ranariddh.

Some human rights workers, meanwhile, expressed concern that the Second Prime Minister's

much-vaunted campaign against crime could lead to more abuses of suspects by over-enthusiastic

police. Several alleged cases of people being tortured or beaten to death in police

custody have been reported recently.

Police and military officials are moving to enforce the eight-point campaign first

announced by Hun Sen in a visit to seaside Kampong Som with new First Prime Minister

Ung Huot last month.

"I am ready to leave from this position in the case that these measures do not

succeed," Hun Sen said at the time, adding that he would first "strip the

ranks" of lower officials who failed to implement his policy.

The eight points are:

  • Cracking down on robberies, kidnappings and drug dealing and smuggling;
  • Seizing illegal weapons and destroying some - including landmines - confiscated

    in the past;

  • Removing all illegal checkpoints and reducing the number of official ones;
  • Collecting weapons from commune and village militia, except in areas close to

    Khmer Rouge zones;

  • Check and license police and military officials who have firearms;
  • Reduce the number of bodyguards used by government officials, public figures

    and private business people;

  • Outlaw the tinting of car windows, which Hun Sen said made it difficult for the

    authorities to see guns, prostitutes or abduction victims being transported in vehicles;

  • Reiterate orders to police and soldiers that all troop and weapons movements

    must be authorized by their commanders.

Hun Sen focused on illegal checkpoints - a key complaint of many Cambodians who

face extortion from authorities when traveling around the country - and threatened

to sack provincial officials who failed to ensure that such checkpoints were removed.

The Prime Minister said that, without the eight points being properly enforced, "the

country will have more crisis". The campaign would promote public order and

safety, laying the groundwork for a safe environment for the next elections, he said.

Hun Sen specifically urged the authorities not to commit human rights abuses in the

course of implementing his campaign, saying: "Please be careful - don't kill

the thieves... We have to arrest the thieves alive and send them for trial."

Human rights workers, meanwhile, said they are concerned at continuing abuses of

crime suspects by police officers, and hope that the Prime Ministerial campaign does

not encourage rights violations.

In one recent notable case, a man died after being shot and then allegedly beaten

by police in Takeo province Aug 8. Pet Pheaktra, aged 27, had been delivering a motorbike

for a friend but was accused by police of stealing it.

Pheaktra and another man on the motorbike were shot at when they drove past a group

of policemen in Tonle Bati district, according to a human rights report. Pheaktra,

hit in the thigh by a bullet, turned around to drive back to the police. One policeman

opened fire again, hitting both Pheaktra and his passenger.

The wounded pair were taken to the district police station, where they were allegedly

beaten and robbed of their money and jewelry. Pheaktra was allegedly tied to a tree

outside the station with his krama and beaten until he confessed he stole the motorbike.

Pheaktra, according to police, was taken to hospital about two hours later but there

were no doctors there. He died soon afterward.

Rights workers said they later established that Pheaktra had been asked by a Ministry

of Interior policeman, Seng Vannak, to take the motorcycle to his brother in Kirivong

district.

In an earlier case, in Kandal province, a man named Bou was caught trying to steal

a motorcycle July 15. He was allegedly beaten unconscious and died three days later.

Police blamed a crowd of civilians for beating the man, but witnesses told human

rights workers that it was the police who assaulted him.

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