Logo of Phnom Penh Post newspaper Phnom Penh Post - Top cop urges heavy charges in petty thefts

Top cop urges heavy charges in petty thefts

National Police Chief Neth Savoeun attends a meeting last week where he suggested bag snatchers be charged with attempted murder.
National Police Chief Neth Savoeun attends a meeting last week where he suggested bag snatchers be charged with attempted murder. Photo supplied

Top cop urges heavy charges in petty thefts

In a meeting last week with top cops from around the country, National Police Chief Neth Savoeun “encouraged” officers to push for charges of attempted murder for theft suspects, though legal experts doubted intent to kill could be proven in court.

Savoeun’s comments were made on Wednesday during a meeting with police chiefs, according to a post on the National Police website. Kirth Chantharith, National Police spokesman, did not respond to calls yesterday.

“HE Neth Savoeun, national police chief, encouraged [police] to file complaints against thefts on the streets [with charges of] attempted murder,” a recap of the meeting reads. He justified the instruction by saying light sentences do not deter criminals from reoffending.

Under the Criminal Code, petty robbery would carry a charge of “theft” or “theft with aggravating circumstances”, with a sentence of six months to three years in prison for the former, and five to 10 years for the latter.

Chin Malin, Justice Ministry spokesman, said police can suggest whichever charge they want, but only prosecutors can decide which is applicable.

Independent legal and human rights expert Billy Chia-Lung Tai, meanwhile, called the suggestion to charge petty thieves with attempted murder “ludicrous”.

In most thefts, such as those where the perpetrators snatch bags in traffic and end up injuring their victims, the intent to cause death or very serious injury is not there, Tai said.

“The thieves simply want to grab whatever it is they set out to grab,” he said. Tai added that perhaps it is also worth thinking about why people are committing thefts in the first place and to start “tackling the social problems that are present”.

Legal expert Sok Sam Oeun also challenged the rationale for harsher sentencing, saying thieves reoffend because jails lack rehabilitation services.

Additional reporting by Yesenia Amaro

MOST VIEWED

  • Analyst: Rainsy blocked from boarding flight 'an excuse'

    THAI Airways not allowing Sam Rainsy on its route from Paris to Bangkok on Thursday is being used as an excuse to keep his standing among fellow coup plotters and his uninformed supporters as flights to non-Asean countries are available, an analyst said on Friday.

  • Rainsy lands in Malaysia

    Cambodian opposition figure Sam Rainsy arrived in Kuala Lumpur airport on Saturday afternoon after boarding a flight from Paris, where he has been living for more than four years. Ministry of Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation spokesperson Koy Kuong said on Saturday that Cambodia respected

  • Touch: Rainsy will never return

    Sam Rainsy, the “acting president” of the Supreme Court-dissolved Cambodia National Rescue Party (CNRP), has claimed it has achieved 70 per cent of its struggle to find a solution to the current political situation in the Kingdom. Just before boarding a plane at Charles de Gaulle

  • Sokha continues call for dropping of charge after bail conditions reduced

    Not satisfied with having his bail conditions reduced, allowing him to travel freely in Cambodia, Kem Sokha says he wants his charge totally dropped. “As an innocent man who has been in detention for two years even without being found guilty, I continue to demand

  • MEPs' call for Rainsy's safety not European Parliament position

    The European Parliament said on Friday that a statement by 56 Members of the European Parliament (MEPs) calling for guarantees of Sam Rainsy’s freedom and safety should he return to Cambodia did not represent its position. Delphine Colard, the European Parliament’s press officer told

  • Sar Kheng: Rainsy return not blocked

    Minister of Interior Sar Kheng clarified that Cambodia had never blocked Sam Rainsy from returning to the Kingdom. However, he said Cambodia reserved the right to take legal action as allowed by law against activities aimed at destroying the Kingdom. “No one blocked the return