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Cops handcuffed by seizure rules, sentencing: chief

A woman sits at a Phnom Penh police station earlier this year after she was arrested for drug trafficking. National Police
A woman sits at a Phnom Penh police station earlier this year after she was arrested for drug trafficking. National Police

Cops handcuffed by seizure rules, sentencing: chief

Police officials yesterday called for tougher sentencing of drug dealers and for the government to make it “easier and faster [for police] to seize their property”, as the Interior Ministry’s annual drugs conference wrapped in the capital.

Following a Monday session in which National Authority for Combating Drugs chief Ke Kim Yan ran down a litany of troubling areas, including trafficking within prisons and drug-rife Phnom Penh neighbourhoods, National Police chief Neth Savoeun yesterday suggested the force was being handcuffed by red tape.

“The law states, but we cannot implement, the seizure of the property from drug trafficking . . . We can’t implement it because of the complicated procedures,” he said. “I request to amend [the law], if possible, to shorten the procedure for seizing [dealers’] property.”

He added that seized property could then be used in the fight against drugs.

Kim Yan expressed support for such an amendment, describing the “filing of appeals back and forth” as “our weakness”, and lamenting that at the conclusion of most cases, “all property or land is gone and everything is legitimate”.

Legal expert Sok Sam Oeun said that while current legislation does allow police to seize the assets of criminals if they are the proceeds of or have been used in crimes, any property seized can only be passed to the state after the owner had been convicted, adding, “[that] judgement must be based on the law”.

Ousted Phnom Penh Municipal Court president Ang Maltey is currently awaiting a verdict in a case in which he is charged with taking a drug dealer’s car and then giving it to his son as a present.

The capital’s top cop also called for harsher sentencing, saying that “other countries hang or [give the] death sentence; but for us, between 20 years to life in prison”.

Kim Yan added that the Kingdom’s sentencing lacked consistency, with too many put away for drug charges only jailed for “a short time”.

Deputy Prime Minister Sar Kheng, who was in attendance, said the government would study whether changes to sentencing laws were feasible.

But how lengthened sentences would affect Cambodia’s already overcrowded penal system, which swelled by nearly a fifth last year, went unaddressed yesterday.

Prisons department spokesman Nut Savanea has previously stated that 30 per cent of inmates have been convicted of drug offenses.

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