Interior Minister Sar Kheng on Tuesday ordered relevant authorities to arrest the traffickers of counterfeit goods, while officials also complained that punishments were not strict enough as Cambodia lacks clear and defined laws on food safety.
Sar Kheng’s concerns were voiced at a ceremony in Phnom Penh’s Meanchey district in which over 70 tonnes of fake and tainted products were destroyed after a Counter-Counterfeit Committee crackdown.
The haul included 106 types of medicine totalling 400g, 5,520 boxes of ‘Evian’ drinking water weighing 62,640kg, and 7,850kg of agricultural fertilisers.
Sar Kheng said these products all had the potential to harm consumers, also highlighting that authorities have uncovered and seized many different counterfeit products.
He continued that the main priority was now to identify the owners of the counterfeit goods and bring them to justice.
“Let me order the Counter-Counterfeit Committee that next time they seize products, they must arrest the owners too. If they do not arrest the owners, I will not participate in this ceremony anymore. This is my condition as this has not been done yet."
“Next time, if you want me to join this ceremony, arrest the owners of the counterfeit products. I suggest authorities at all levels and in all areas support this work, and also that people help by reporting those who import fake products,” he said.
Sar Kheng also agreed with his officials who stated that the punishments for those who traffic counterfeit goods were not strict enough.
“They are not strict, but it is better than nothing. There is no law about it, I have done research."
“The Law on the Management of the Quality and Safety of Products and Services bans counterfeiting goods, and says that any attempt to do so will be punished by Articles 63 and 64 that carry a prison sentence of one month to one year, along with a fine of five million riel to 10 million riel [$1,300 to $2,600],” he said.
Counter-Counterfeit Committee chief Meach Sophana said that though his committee was working hard to stamp out counterfeiting, offenders persisted as the business is lucrative and punishment weak.
“The level of punishment on the perpetrators remains very light because Cambodia does not have a definitive law on food safety and foodstuffs. We still use the directives from relevant ministries and some technical laws, which do not state the punishment for perpetrators,” he said.
He added that for this reason, police and the courts experienced difficulties in handing out serious punishments to offenders.
Affiliated Network for Social Accountability (Ansa) executive director San Chey said police repeatedly cracked down on the same crimes with the same suspects. He suggested that this was because powerful officials were behind some cases and were colluding with suspects in return for bribes.
“If we think that current laws on the issue do not fully punish the crimes, someone should make a request to amend them. Before making a request to amend them, relevant authorities must study them seriously as the issue of amending any law does not just happen immediately. We must think whether or not it’s important,” he said.
According to the Counter-Counterfeit Committee’s report released on Tuesday, joint police forces led by the committee last year successfully tackled 20 cases of counterfeit goods.