Minister of Justice Ang Vong Vathana yesterday met with prosecutors from around the country, telling them to step up their game when it comes to dealing with violent offenders and drug traffickers.
The closed-door meeting at the Ministry of Justice followed a call by Prime Minister Hun Sen this week to better scrutinise pardon applications after a spate of armed robberies across Cambodia, some involving suspects with prior criminal histories.
“So far, we have heard bad words from the public and that they are unhappy with our work, so this meeting is about waking us up to be more responsible in our work and our obligation to find justice for people,” the minister of justice said.
In one case on December 11, two suspects were killed in a shootout with military police in Phnom Penh hours after they, and two other men since arrested, allegedly fatally shot a motorist during a robbery.
Vathana said that checks revealed that the suspects killed were not pardoned from prison but rather convicted for a previous armed robbery in absentia and not caught.
He said that catching convicted offenders in hiding “is the work that prosecutors should pay attention to”.
After the meeting, Keut Rith, Ministry of Justice secretary of state, said prisoners were eligible for a reduced sentence after serving a third of their term and eligible for a pardon after serving two-thirds.
However, the process was discretionary, he stressed.
“We need [officials] to consider that some criminal cases can’t be pardoned or receive a sentence reduction from the King,” Rith said, highlighting armed robbery as such a case.
The ministry also plans to meet with prison chiefs, court presidents and military police to discuss the issue.