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
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.