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National Assembly to discuss Vietnam prisoner exchange treaty

Ben Sokhean / Khmer Times Share:
The National Assembly passes a law KT/Khem Sovannara

The draft law on transfer of convicted inmate treaty between Cambodia and Vietnam will be debated at the National Assembly’s special sitting next week, the first-ever treaty the Kingdom has with a foreign country.

National Assembly secretary general  Leng Peng Long said yesterday the draft law made by the Justice Ministry since 2016 was submitted to the parliament as “urgent”.

NA permanent committee on Tuesday agreed to have the Commission on Legislation and Justice study the draft.

Justice Minister Ang Vong Vathana is due to meet  the commission today.

Mr Peng Long said the Commission on Legislation and Justice will send the recommendation back to the Permanent Committee next week for review and will decide whether to put it for the plenary session for approval.

“The government considers this draft law as urgent so it will be sent to be debated soon,” he added.

He said the treaty would benefit both countries in transferring prisoners who are convicted over various crimes.

“The draft law on transfer of convicts treaty between the two nations aims to transfer Cambodian convicts being imprisoned in Vietnam to serve their term in Cambodia,” he said. “Convicted Vietnamese people being jailed in Cambodia will be transferred to Vietnam.”

He said the treaty is purely for humanitarian grounds.

“We want Cambodian people who are convicted in Vietnam to serve their terms in Cambodia because here, it will be much easier for them to communicate in Khmer and their relatives have chances to visit them,” he said.

He said Cambodian convicts transferred to Cambodia may receive the royal pardon during special occasions, especially the Khmer New Year in April, Water Festival in November and Visak Bochea Day in May.

He said the Kingdom has extradition agreements with Vietnam, Laos, Thailand, China and Russia.

Legal expert Sok Sam Oeun said yesterday this treaty will help add to the 2013 extradition agreement between Cambodia and Vietnam.

“If one country wants to transfer a prisoner to another, it needs to consult with the court. They cannot just be transferred whenever that country wants,” Mr Sam Oeun said. “They also should not transfer political prisoners or prisoners of conscience.”

He said the government should respect the principle of extradition of a foreign resident in the territory which says: “Extradition shall not be possible if the act charged is political.”

“I think this treaty is likely to give more benefit to Vietnam rather than Cambodia,” he said.

Prime Minister Hun Sen with President Nguyen Phu Trong when he visited Cambodia last year. KT/Khem Sovannara

Prime Minister Hun Sen visited Hanoi in December 2013 while the two nations signed eight agreements, including a treaty on extradition.

The 2013 Treaty is aimed at the suppression of crime based on respecting sovereignty, quality and reciprocal interests by concluding a treaty for the extradition of offenders.

Justice Ministry spokesman Chin Malin said yesterday that the treaty aims to transfer convicts between the Kingdom and Vietnam.

He said other countries will also have similar treaties like Cambodia.

“It is a general agreement related to a criminal sector other countries always do, especially countries that have their citizens there,” he said.

“When we transfer the sentenced person to their home country, it will be much easier as they could contact their families or relatives,” he added. “This treaty is to help them [prisoners].”

Rights group Adhoc spokesman Soeng Sen Karuna said yesterday the treaty will help both countries to protect their people’s rights who were convicted over various offences.

“I think this treaty has both negative and positive impact,” he said and expressed concerns that it could target “anti-Vietnamese” dissents who fled to Cambodia.

“We are concerned with Vietnamese activists who fled to Cambodia when they committed minor offences there. They could be sent back to Vietnam,” he added.

Mr Sen Karuna said he was also concerned that Khmer Krom activists in southern Vietnam, who  fled to Cambodia for political reasons, may face the same consequence.

He said indigenous people living in the Central Highlands of Vietnam known as Montagnards who fled to Cambodia in recent years to seek asylum could face deportation.

The Montagnards fled Vietnam in the past years after being subjected to years of persistent religious and political persecution, according to Human Rights Watch.

However, Mr Peng Long said the treaty will not target any “political prisoners”.

“There is no ‘Khmer Krom’ in this draft law. There is only ‘Vietnamese and Cambodian’”, he said.

Mr Peng Long said that Khmer Krom people who have Cambodian nationality and convicted in Vietnam will be asked to be transferred to Cambodia.

“If those Khmer Krom still have Khmer nationality, Cambodia has the rights to request a transfer, but if they have Vietnamese nationality we cannot,” he said.  “We respect human rights.”

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