Prime Minister Hun Sen said on Monday that he has listened to the comments on his idea of capital punishment for child rapists and expressed appreciation for the analysts’ and public comments.
A day earlier, he had raised it at a meeting with an anti-human trafficking NGO in the capital attended by victims of such abuse.
“I agree with their analysis. Our country has abolished the death penalty since the era of the State of Cambodia. When we changed the constitution from a popular Republic of Cambodia to State of Cambodia, we already abolished the death penalty. So the points raised by Sok Sam Oeun, Ou Virak, and Sok Touch are correct."
“If there were an execution following a mistrial, it would be a great tragedy. This does not fit today’s context of our country."
“And I think if there is a mistake in the trial, and someone is sentenced to death and the execution is carried out, there is nothing we can do if a retrial finds he is innocent. So this is more drama than what we can think of,” he said.
On Sunday, Hun Sen said he was considering the death penalty for those who raped their grandchild, daughter, niece or sister. He said an amendment to the constitution was needed, but only after a national referendum and not on his request or parliament’s.
‘Prevention is better than cure’
However, on Monday he said he had listened to comments by the analysts and those posted by the public on his Facebook page requesting him to limit the punishment to life in prison.
The prime minister said prevention was the priority backed up by tough legal action.
“Punishment is what will follow, but prevention is necessary to stop it from happening in the first place. It is like doctors saying: ‘Prevention is better than cure’.
“Moral education must continue to be strengthened to avoid bad deeds which should not happen in our society. Not only crimes committed to relatives but for all mistreatment."
“Secondly, law enforcement must be tough on perpetrators. If such crimes happen, a life sentence is sufficient,” he said.
Sar Sineth, deputy director of the Legal Protection Department at the Ministry of Women’s Affairs, said her ministry contributed to combating such crimes by implementing national action plans on the prevention of violence against women.
She said such activities included legal enforcement, educating the public on rape, violence, drugs and human trafficking and their impacts, and by working in conjunction with relevant ministries.
Professor of philosophy and social affairs Keo Vichet said Buddhism did not condone the death penalty. He said the most serious punishment in Buddhist teaching was exile.
Moral education and providing vocational training to enable people to find employment, he said, were two ways to prevent rape.
“Such crimes usually happen in poor families and by those who don’t have a profession. Those who have proper jobs and dignity in society won’t commit this crime."
“So the state has the duty to provide vocational training, allowing people to have proper jobs and salaries, then they may not commit rape,” Vichet said.
He said rape committed by close relatives was usually by those who had become marginalised from society. To solve this, he said there should be social events aimed at educating people on morality.