FIRST Prime Minister Ung Huot has a simple, radical way of stopping the Kingdom's
hard-core villains: "Shoot them".
Huot - apparently making law and order a main plank in his electoral platform - told
the Post on May 31 that what amounts to summary executions of criminals is needed
to bring peace, security and democracy to Cambodia.
Huot first floated the idea during a speech in Kampong Chhnang in early May, which
was rebroadcast over national radio on May 22, in which he claimed he would eliminate
all thuggery, thievery and violent crime by giving criminals a warning the first
week after he is elected to power, and then shooting those who continued a week later.
"What is important is to eliminate all acts of thievery and anarchy that torment
our society," he said in the speech, noting that it was the only way to deal
with anarchic troops like those he had seen in Banteay Meanchey protecting a truck
full of merchandise with B-40 rocket launchers.
"If you read [my speech], it is clear," he said in the subsequent interview.
"The first week, I will give them a warning to stop [committing crimes] - whether
they are in uniform or not - and then I will take action."
What action will he take?
"Don't make me say it again. I said [already]: 'Shoot them'. [But] don't push
that line. It is bad for Cambodia. Let me deal with that. I do what I say. I implement
what I tell the people."
The proposal brought numerous protests from human rights groups and judicial officials
"Summary executions cannot be justified in any circumstances," said Rosemary
McCreery, the director of the UN Center for Human Rights office in Cambodia.
An Amnesty International official also responded sharply to the First Prime Minister's
"Amnesty International would be extremely concerned if any politician, anywhere
in the world, was advocating summary executions of suspected criminals," the
organization's regional researcher Demelza Stubbings wrote by e-mail. "It goes
against the fundamental presumption of innocence, and against the most basic of human
rights, the right to life.
"The United Nations Basic Principles on the Use of Force and Firearms are very
specific about the circumstances in which law enforcement personnel may use weapons.
Operating a shoot-to-kill policy is a clear violation of these principles, which
are specifically designed to ensure that excessive use of force is avoided."
Despite a constitutional ban on the death penalty, about one in 14 criminal suspects
in Phnom Penh were killed or wounded during their arrest last year.
Appeal's Court prosecutor Henrot Raken, who noted that the speech comes less than
two months before elections, said: "You must ask him what legal basis he will
work upon. That speech is just [hot] air. No one will institute it. No one."
Huot, who is president of the Reastr Niyum party, said he is seeking to set himself
apart from other candidates through his stern stance.
"That is what makes me different from the other [candidates]. This is what I
want to do," he said, proudly claiming that his words have brought success in
recent weeks. "I have received information that there are no more gangsters.
I said it [in a speech] and it was done."
He also said he dreams of a "neighborhood watch" program where locals will
take matters into their own hands.
Such programs in other countries consist of a group of neighbors watching out for
each other and calling police when they spot trouble.
Asked how such a program would run here, Huot said he would make the possession of
weapons "illegal and embarrassing".
"There are not enough police to protect everyone. My program is to get people
to watch their neighbor, their friends. It is a deterrent... It is [about] winning
the war before the battle."
Huot - who was never elevated to the rank of co-Commander-in-Chief of the armed forces
since being installed as First Prime Minister following last July's ouster of Prince
Ranariddh - promised his plan would be effective.
"If I say I will do something, I will do it. It is called water logic. Do you
know what water logic is? Water logic is different from normal logic. I say I have
logic, a logic that is more logical than other people have," he said, explaining
that his "water logic" says the path toward democracy is lined with improved
education, development, women's rights and, of course, security.