THE CULTURE OF INTERVENING IN FAVOUR OF [GANGSTERS] SHOULD BE ELIMINATED.
PRIME Minister Hun Sen has again demanded that high-ranking officials rein in their rambunctious relatives, warning he will demote any officials who shield friends or family who have committed crimes from facing the full force of the law.
“The culture of intervening in favour of [gangsters] should be eliminated,” Hun Sen said in a speech during a graduation ceremony at the National Institute of Education.
“I would like to state publicly that even if my children were gangsters, [the court should] put them in jail, and I would take rice to them at Prey Sar prison.”
Hun Sen also advised authorities to take action immediately with people committing offences and using the names of powerful people to evade the consequences of the law.
“No one is an exception. Everyone has to be equal before the law,” he said, adding that both poor and rich should be held to the same standard.
Khieu Sopheak, spokesman for the Ministry of Interior, said last month that from 2006 until September this year, police across the country detained 8,689 suspected criminals, including 71 women, sending 454 to court to face charges.
Opposition Sam Rainsy Party lawmaker Son Chhay said that despite the prime minister’s previous appeals for government officials to control their relatives, a culture of impunity still reigned in Cambodia.
The request “will only be effective for a short period”, Son Chhay said, adding that the roots of juvenile gangsterism should also be addressed.
“There should also be a mechanism or a specific law to eliminate drug use among the youth because when they use drugs they don’t respect the law.”
The premier’s comments came after a 22-year-old woman, Khay Dara, fired a gun into the air after a minor traffic dispute on September 28,
triggering a four-hour standoff with police. In an attempt to avoid arrest, Khay Dara – whose case was referred to by Hun Sen – falsely said she was an adviser to Assembly President Heng Samrin, the niece of Deputy Prime Minister Sok An and an acquaintance of National Police Commissioner Neth Savoeun, Phnom Penh Municipal Court was told earlier this month.
Although the court sentenced Khay Dara to 18 months in jail and fined her 1 million riels (US$240) on charges of reckless endangerment and illegal possession of a weapon, Hun Sen called for tighter penalties.
“The punishment [against her] was not enough. I think it was a light sentence,” Hun Sen said. He also ordered the local authorities to file two additional weapons charges against Khay Dara and warned that a three-star general who intervened in her case could be stripped of his rank.
“If you dare to intervene in this case with Hun Sen, your stars will be dropped,” he added. Chuon Sunleng, deputy president of Appeal Court said that Khay Dara will appear before the court to appeal her case today.
In his speech on Tuesday, the premier also called for vigilance during this week’s Water Festival, in order to prevent the spread of A(H1N1) influenza, commonly known as swine flu, and HIV/AIDS.
“If possible, people should wear masks in order to protect themselves against [flu] transmission,” he said.
“AIDS is also an important issue. Please be careful not to bring AIDS back home. The authorities should look at the street girls or close the brothels.”
ADDITIONAL REPORTING BY CHRANN CHAMROEUN