W idely tipped as the one to watch in Cambodia's political power game,
Co-Interior Minster Sar Kheng spoke with DPA correspondent Leo Dobbs
on current issues.
Q: Will the government attack Pailin?
A: There are two reference points we have to bear in mind. One is that the
constitution stipulates that the Royal government should control 100 percent of
our territory and not to let any other illegal forces to control or set up
parallel administrations. Secondly, is that the outlawing of the Khmer Rouge
(means) they now become bandits, and sooner or later we have to make activities
against them and as far as I know there are no more negotiations to try to
include the Khmer Rouge in the government. I don't know if later on the King
might have some idea or plan and we will consider at that time if it comes out,
but for the time being there are no negotiations in this way. We will not allow
the Khmer Rouge to control even one small part of our territory. But I am not
aware of any particular military operation to control Pailin, but we don't plan
to let the Khmer Rouge expand their territory outside Pailin either.
Q: Why were guards disarmed and withdrawn from (Siem Reap MP) Sam Rainsy's
A: The request to withdraw bodyguards from his house came from his own party,
FUNCINPEC, and I have already voiced my opposition to withdraw those bodyguards
for two reasons. I forecast that if withdrawn in these circumstances we would
have strong protests from diplomats, NGOs, press, etc. If something happened
after they were withdrawn, the government would have had full responsibility.
Sam Rainsy had eight bodyguards when he was Minister of Finance. Now, since he
is only an MP, I think (he needs) one or two to ensure security. He does still
have two armed bodyguards, and we have to provide security for every MP. But in
some particular situation, especially for Sam Rainsy, if he feels that he has
not enough security to travel around he could apply to get extra bodyguards and
we will provide for him accordingly.
Q: With economic progress comes crime. What are you doing to curb this
sort of trend?
A: I don't fully agree that with economic progress comes crime. In our
country crime develops because of three factors, influenced directly from two
decades of war. First, the basic needs of the population (are not being met)...
people need so much, and some do it in an honest way and some do it in a hard
way. Second, due to more than twenty years of war, weapons have spread around
the Kingdom so everyone has weapons, and they tend always to be used one way or
another. Thirdly, also because of war, the basic education in families, schools
and society is not well developed so that is why people do not think much. When
they want something they just use what they have in hand, most of the time in a
hard way to get it. In the Ministry of Interior we have even seen examples of
people stealing and using weapons to get goods from their own families. That is
why as Minister of Interior I issued a policy to get more and efficient control
over weapons among the population. Second, we must upgrade, train and specialize
our police force. Also, the general political measure of the government is to
improve standards of living and to focus our budget and efforts toward
education. I don't have specific figures but the level of crime drastically
decreased compared to 1993.
Q: Do you have evidence of organized crime, or the presence of
A: I was told about this information many times... I have asked for
information but we don't have any evidence.
Q: Is drug trafficking and drug use a big problem?
A: We have already arrested people in possession of drugs and each time we
got one kilogram, two, five, much more than that. So in my opinion if we
intercept those quantities of heroin... I guess that Cambodia is already
becoming a transit place for the drugs and they already use the drugs in this
country... As yet we don't have particular laws to deal with the drug situation.
But for the time being, since the level of drug transits is still very low we
can apply our criminal law to deal with the situation... and it still can be
very efficient. In Cambodia people do not use marijuana like a drug, they use it
to prepare meals or as a cigarette smoke, its not a big deal, its not dangerous
for their life and people in general don't like to use it as a drug. Personally
I never use it. Its like monosodium glutamate, you put it in the soup so it
gives a particular taste.
Q: What about the fight against corruption?
A: I do support those public statements... and personally I am very
positive to fight corruption. But in my opinion, we must have concrete measures
and detailed plans with schedules and especially the political will to go ahead
with those plans. If not, we cannot deal efficiently against corruption. I think
that corruption is the most important problem in this country, not only among
the leaders, but also in the administration, even among the people. I don't know
how far, how big, how deep the corruption is, but I can say that it is a serious
Q: Do you think the press law should be free of criminal
A: I have already stated publicly to the Khmer Journalists Association
my position. We should decriminalize the press law. We already have a law to
deal with crime if a specific journalist has conducted criminal activities, so
no need to include it in the press law.
Q: What is your opinion on plans to close the UN Human Rights
A: I answer this on a personal basis. I think that our democracy is still
very young and we have to bear in mind that we come out of more than 23 years of
war. So conflict still exists, especially conflict between the one who has power
and the ones who do not. To live with each other we have to have other
organizations to help us monitor the human rights situation. In my opinion, we
should renew the mandate of the UN Human Rights Center so that we can strengthen
democracy and human rights in Cambodia.