One day after calling for a public referendum to allow for capital punishment against child rapists, Prime Minister Hun Sen yesterday shifted his stance on the issue after receiving legal advice.
While meeting with sexual abuse victims on Sunday, Mr Hun Sen said he wanted to crack down on beasts preying on vulnerable children by sentencing them to death.
However, he said yesterday that experts, including Royal Academy of Cambodia president Sok Touch, had expressed opposition to the idea, specifically when it comes to wrongful convictions.
“We abolished capital punishment in , so I think what they [experts] said is true,” Mr Hun Sen said. “There is no walking back on handing a death sentence to someone who was wrongfully convicted.”
Mr Hun Sen said that after consulting with experts, he has decided that “it is not what our nation is all about”.
“If we can’t cover all the loopholes, then someone innocent could be wrongfully convicted. It would be cruel,” he said. “So, I think there is no need to amend the constitution, we should instead strengthen education and morality.”
Mr Hun Sen added that monks should play a part in educating the public when it comes to the spiritual aspect of rape prevention.
“We need to strengthen education in our society in order to avoid bad karma,” Mr Hun Sen said. “They must not commit rape against relatives or women.”
“We must strictly implement laws against those who commit rape,” he added, noting that a life sentence should be handed to convicted offenders. “If they actually committed the crime, then a life sentence should suffice.”
Cambodia and the Philippines are the only two Asean nations to have abolished capital punishment.
Simon Walker, representative of the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights in Cambodia, yesterday said the OHCHR advocates for the abolition of capital punishment.
“The death penalty is a permissible exception to the right to life but only for the most serious crimes and only in States that have not yet abolished it,” Mr Walker said.
Mr Touch said he was glad to hear Mr Hun Sen listened to his advice.
“Samdech made the speech for capital punishment, but yet he still gave the opportunity for legal experts to weigh in,” he said. “Legal experts understand whether capital punishment should be allowed or not.”
“Allowing capital punishment is worse than not having it,” Mr Touch said. “Sometimes, innocent people are affected.”