Friday, April 2, 2010

Keynote Address at the Opening of the National Workshop on the Dissemination of Criminal Code

Intercontinental Hotel, 10 March, 2010

Excellencies, ladies and gentlemen distinguished national and international guests!

I am pleased to be here in the opening of the dissemination workshop on “Criminal Code”, jointly hosted by the Ministry of Justice and the Embassy of France with support from the Government of the French Republic. Taking this opportunity, I would like to commend the Ministry of Justice and all related institutions as well as development partners for the mental, material and technical contribution to realize the Criminal Code for dissemination in this workshop. More importantly, I would like to express my deep gratitude to the both legislative bodies of Cambodia, led by Samdech Akkar Moha Thormak Porthisal Chea Sim, President of the Senate and Samdech Akkar Moha Ponhea Chakrei Heng Samrin, President of the National Assembly.

This workshop is designed to disseminate the Criminal Code to legal professionals and courts, including judges, prosecutors, clerks, lawyers, related institutions and the public to ensure the effectiveness of law enforcement. This workshop attests to the Royal Government’s firm commitment in legal and judicial reform. The Criminal Code, which acts as the fundamental law in conjunction with the Criminal Procedure Code, a procedural law adopted in 2007 will become core tools for the execution of criminal judgment and ensure fairness and justice for Cambodian citizens. Prior to the adoption of this new Criminal Code, we used the Interim Criminal Law, adopted by the Supreme National Council of Cambodia in 1992 and other scattered legal documents which make it difficult to understand and enforce, and inadequate to deal with new forms of crime at present time.

I think the new law is more comprehensive than the law being enforced presently, and will become a part of modernization of Cambodia’s regulatory system and pave the way for the enforcement of the Anti-Corruption Law. Along with this, the new Criminal Code is designed to be used by both the public and legal professionals as it is easy to understand and provides full coverage of a case, for example Criminal Code, Criminal Procedure Code, Civil Code and Civil Procedure Code.

Lengthy civil war, especially the Khmer Rouge Regime, destroyed most of the social, economic, cultural and religious infrastructure and ruins were left everywhere. Amongst these, the legal and judicial system was almost destroyed too. After the 7th January 1979, government’s ministries and institutions were re-established. All civil servants employed by government’s ministries/institutions at that time were former students, intellectuals, and civil servants who survived the Pol Pot Regime. With firm determination and affection for the country, all the civil servants took part in rehabilitation and development effort by starting from scratch and an incredible progress has been made in just a short period of time, especially those who do not witness the situation might not believe this. Regional and global integration, along with concerted reform efforts have allowed for a proud achievement in human and institutional capacity building. At that time, as the restoration of peace, political stability, security and social order took place, the legal and judicial reform play an important role in the Royal Government’s all sectoral reforms. The objective of the legal and judicial reform since the first legislature of the National Assembly focuses on the improvement and establishment of legal documents that are the foundation of development, assurance of rights, individual dignity, private ownership, free market mechanisms and so forth.

The Royal Government of the second legislature of the National Assembly has established the Council for Legal and Judicial Reform. Since then, legal and judicial reform had become more broadened and deepened and had been considered as an important factor supporting the implementation of government platform.

Indeed, legal and judicial reform program has been considered as one of the 4 programs of “Good Governance” which is the core of Rectangular Strategy for growth, employment, equity and efficiency in Cambodia. In this spirit, the government had paid great attention to legal and judicial reform by mainly developing and strengthening the legal framework, modernizing and laying out strategy and necessary measures aiming at bolstering the capacity, independency and neutrality of the court which are vital factors in the process of strengthening the state of law through promoting the respect of right and dignity of the people, strengthening the culture of peace and culture of respect for the law with the objectives to promote social justice, reduce corruption and finally eradicate the culture of impunity. At the same time, usually in the context of a democratic country, the government has clearly identified that legal and judicial reform must be in line with the appropriate and effective law enforcement because it would not only eliminate the culture of impunity, ensure justice equity for each individual and respect of personal freedom, but it also help to prevent corruption and gain credibility from the public.

Obviously, despite the fact that we still not have the law on corruption yet, the government had paid special attention to the fight against corruption through adopting chained and systematic Governance Action Plan and promote the enforcement of a number of key laws such as Forestry Law, Land Law, Law on Public Financial Management, Law on Customs and Excise, sub-degree on public procurement, government circular on management of non-tax revenue, code of conduct of customs and excise officials…etc… Furthermore, the Criminal Code that we are disseminating at the moment also inscribes 40 articles relating to anti-corruption.

A “Kram” or Code is the true symbol and representative of a state of law in an era of history. Moreover, Kram or Code also reflects the legal will and means of a state of law to achieve democratic objectives which is set to have law understood and enforced. Obviously, Kram or Code is a clear proof of legalization activities, because preparing Kram or Code is the collection of the whole legal procedures which are laws and regulations in legal sector in order to produce a structured set of legislation. The Criminal Code of Cambodia also bear the same nature, especially our Criminal Code is the law and regulation that exist in legal and judicial reform sector which is a set complimentary law to existing laws and documents which are properly structured.

Indeed, the strengthening of law enforcement and legal system must be linked to and include the enactment of new and modern laws like this Criminal Code. Our Criminal Code had been prepared to ensure the continuity of Cambodian institutions in conformity to legal tradition and culture of the Royal Kingdom of Cambodia which based on the Civil Law System or Continental Law. This Criminal Code is a law that is conforming to key principles of organic and institutional structure of Cambodia and international standard. Furthermore, Criminal Code is a law that will not affect the harmonization of Cambodian legal system and can be implemented efficiently and smoothly. This Criminal Code is a set of all criminal regulations of which a part of the legislation states the basic principles and common rules for criminal law for judges to implement in providing justice for criminal cases and other parts states about crimes to be punished.

I am of the view that Criminal Code is the fundamental law that determines clearly those activities or conducts that are prohibited by the law because this Code apparently highlights all kinds of crime by emphasizing meaning of those crimes. On the other hand, this Code also identify individual who is claimed to have committed the crime, and the punishment that follows in order to respond to misconduct against society as set in the following 3 objectives:

1. Protect individual freedom in order to punish any act that is prohibited by law,

2. Ensure individual compensation for damage incurred by criminal acts,

3. Restore social order that had been disconnected and misbalanced due to crimes,

Moreover, Criminal Code is a legal text that is the collection of criminal regulations and is well structured in a consistent and harmonious way, as well as patching some loopholes. Therefore, Criminal Code is an important legal mean that does not only help the judges, prosecutors and legal officers to easily enforce and fully comprehend the law, but it also help to raise our people awareness about their rights and the limitation in exercising those rights, especially on what are to be prohibited and penalized.

In this regards, I view that the Criminal Code will contribute to (i) the state of law, democracy and the protection of rights and dignities of human being in Cambodia, (ii) the modernization of legal framework in criminal field, (iii) the strengthening of legal institution, especially improving the effectiveness of justice delivery to our people, and (iv) the accessibility of legal and court information and providing legal safety to our people.

Taking this opportunity, to realize the commitment of the Royal Government according to plan of action for implementing legal and judicial reform strategy, the Ministry of Justice, the government’s agent on legal sector, has to continue its efforts on the following key works:

First—continue to strengthen legal institutions, especially through the adoption of the other fundamental laws that have been prepared and finalized by the Ministry, such as Law on the Statute of Judges and Prosecutors, Law on the Function of Judiciary, Law on the Statute of the Magistracy etc. and the other legal laws to develop and modernize the legal framework, including the Amendment Law of Law on the organization of court and its administration, Law on statue of notary, Law on statute of court clerks etc.

Second—actively monitor and follow up the implementation of courts and prosecutors following the principles of the law to upgrade the state of law and confidence of public on justice to ensure social stability and stability of the whole state institution.

Third—continue to train legal practitioners and court officials according to the development of Cambodia’s law and new technologies such as automatic data processing system and ITC etc.

Fourth—strengthen and raise awareness about the law by all means to law enforcement institutions and the public to promote knowledge of law and the limitation of exercising of rights to ensure effective enforcement, the prevention and reduction of crime rates as well as increasing security and upgrading state of law.

Fifth—publish the criminal code and widely disseminate the code to relevant institutions and the public to promote the effectiveness of law enforcement as well as promoting the people’s rights to receive information about the law and justice system.

Once again, on behalf of the Royal Government of Cambodia and my own behalf, I would like to compliment and highly appreciate the effort of the Ministry of Justice, relevant institutions and development partners for their contribution to the legal and judicial reform in Cambodia, especially for the creation and dissemination of this Criminal Code. Taking this opportunity, I am pleased to appeal to all relevant institutions, sub-national administration, national and international organizations, and the private sector to jointly educate, disseminate and invoke the spirit of respecting and enforcing this Criminal Code rightfully and effectively. At the same time, I would like to emphasize that when all regulations of the Criminal Code are being enforced, it is the ending of transitional criminal code created by UNTAC in 1992.

Finally, along with the dissemination of the Criminal Code, I would like to wish Excellency, ladies and gentlemen four gems of Buddhist blessings.

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