Logo of Phnom Penh Post newspaper Phnom Penh Post - Justice Ministry may try community service after UN envoy points to excessive use of pre-trial detention

Justice Ministry may try community service after UN envoy points to excessive use of pre-trial detention

UN Special Rapporteur Rhona Smith (left) and Justice Minister Ang Vong Vathana share a laugh as they walk out of a meeting yesterday in Phnom Penh.
UN Special Rapporteur Rhona Smith (left) and Justice Minister Ang Vong Vathana share a laugh as they walk out of a meeting yesterday in Phnom Penh. Pha Lina

Justice Ministry may try community service after UN envoy points to excessive use of pre-trial detention

The Ministry of Justice yesterday said it was considering a pilot project to hand out community service sentences following a meeting in which UN Special Rapporteur Rhona Smith raised concerns over the excessive use of pre-trial detention by the Kingdom’s courts.

Smith, who is on a 10-day visit to the country, met with Justice Minister Ang Vong Vathana yesterday to receive updates on judicial reforms, with ministry spokesman Chin Malin saying she expressed concern at the continued use of pre-trial detentions, especially in light of the ongoing drug crackdown, which has seen thousands of arrests – mostly of small-time users and dealers.

“It causes a crowding crisis in prisons, and also the pre-trial detention includes human rights activists, political activists . . . She wants to somehow make the pre-trial detention decrease.”

Courts have frequently used pre-trial detention to hold those accused of crimes, often claiming that the accused were threats to “social order and security”.

Malin said the rapporteur suggested looking at alternatives to pre-trial detention, such as increasing bail approvals in tandem with court supervision, and exploring community service sentencing.

However, Malin said it was difficult to grant bail or community sentences, maintaining that the public would assume a corrupt act led to the release of the culprit and take matters into their own hands.

“When they go back to the community, the community will think that the court is irregular because of this modern concept,” he said.

But the ministry was looking at starting a pilot project in Battambang province, where community service would be implemented and the community would be educated on such sentencing.

On leaving the meeting, Smith would only say that she had received an update from the minister on judicial reforms, especially with regard to pre-trial detention and alternative sentences.

“I got a briefing [on] a lot of the progress the ministry is making, particularly with pre-trial detention and alternate dispute resolution, as well as alternatives to custodial sentences,” she said outside the ministry.

Duch Piseth, advocacy director for the Cambodian Center for Human Rights, welcomed the proposed pilot project.

He did agree, however, that it would take some convincing for people to accept a new concept like community service because the “people and public did not have faith in the court system”.

MOST VIEWED

  • Construction begins on $1.5B Kampot seaport

    The International Multi-Purpose Logistics and Port Centre, principally invested by Kampot Logistics and Port Co Ltd and projected to cost $1.5 billion, has officially broken ground in Bokor town, Kampot province. The multi-purpose logistics and port centre, located in Prek Tnaot commune, will be built on

  • Cambodia eyes key role in electronics, auto hubs in SEA

    Two roadmaps, part of the LDC’s economic diversification plan, were designed to see it through its migration process, but experts say the journey might be arduous, particularly in the presence of two established hubs in the region By 2028, Cambodia hopes to have exited the

  • Hun Neng, lawmaker and PM’s brother, passes away aged 72

    Hun Neng, chairman of the 4th Commission of the National Assembly, has passed away from heart disease at the age of 72 on the afternoon of May 5, according to the Ministry of Information. Hun Neng is the older brother of Prime Minister Hun Sen, and was

  • CCC team off on US business trip

    The Kingdom’s leading economists and private sector representatives have called on the US to renew its tax preferential status for Cambodian exports, as a Cambodia Chamber of Commerce (CCC) delegation departed for a weeklong business visit to the US, where they will meet with

  • PM meets with US business giants

    Prime Minister Hun Sen has met with a number of major US companies who have expressed interest in investing in Cambodia, in a meeting convened by the US-ASEAN Business Council (US-ABC). A delegation of companies – including Amazon, Meta, Chevron, ConocoPhillips, ExxonMobil, Ford, Visa and Pernod

  • Massive stingrays may live in Mekong’s deep pools

    US scientists have suggested that unexplored deep pools in the Mekong River in an area of Stung Treng could potentially be home to significant populations of giant freshwater stingrays, one of the world’s largest freshwater fish species. This comes as a fisherman hooked a 180