National Police Deputy, Noun Soeur, who was sacked from his
post recently told press that 600 kilograms of heroin is trafficked through
Phnom Penh from Myanmar and Laos each week. Meanwhile, the human rights groups
are concerned about the threats made to the members of the Parliamentary
Commission on Human Rights and Complaints to the effect that it will be
abolished. Perhaps these two aspects are linked.
Giving reasons for the
inability to arrest heroin traffickers, Noun Soeur told the press: "My policemen
lack equipment and experience and the smugglers are rich and have high-ranking
officials behind them."
Human rights organizations have constantly
complained since 1992 that Cambodian police need training and experience. There
had been some training courses too. However, resistance to providing such
training has been more political, than due to lack of resources. From 1975 to
the May 1993 United Nations-supervised elections, most of the Cambodian society
was controlled by a single political party which exercised direct influence on
every aspect of life. Though the political system was theoretically changed by
the introduction of a new constitution recognizing the separation of powers in
September 1993, there had been a great reluctance to introduce any institutions
that work on the basis of law and not on personal instructions.
rights groups have constantly emphasized the need to develop laws and encourage
the respect for law. In fact, the Parliamentary Commission on Human Rights and
Complaints gets complaints regularly on gross abuse of human rights (last year
over 1,000) but is unable to do much about them as there are no legal procedures
to hold anyone accountable. The investigations into heroin smuggling face the
same problem. Perhaps, one redeeming feature is that there are more and more
people who openly express their dissatisfaction on what is going on in their
society, something that Cambodians feared to do just three years back.
Sometimes, protests are rather strong. On the 8th of August 1995, Kandal MP Meas
Chan Leap committed suicide inside the National Assembly to emphasize the need
for protecting democracy within a political party. His friends say that Chan
Leap, who lived in Japan for 20 years, meant his suicide as an act of honor
against a cynical political situation growing in his country - after an election
which evoked much hope. The event has provoked much more internal dissent,
calling for a society that respects rule of law and holds honor as a political
virtue. If this does not happen soon, there may be a threat to the Southeast
Asia's attempt to control the production and distribution of narcotics.
- Basil Fernando, Executive Director, Asian Human Rights Commission, Hong