Ministry of Justice spokesman Chin Malin took issue with comments made by US ambassador to Cambodia Patrick Murphy regarding the eight-month prison sentence handed down to the 16-year-old son of a former opposition party activist.
“I am saddened to hear the Phnom Penh Municipal Court today sentenced a child to prison time for what appears to be politically motivated charges,” Murphy tweeted on November 1. “How does jailing the teenage son of an opposition figure demonstrate respect for human rights?”
Murphy’s comments came following the municipal court’s sentencing of 16-year-old Kak Sovanchhay – son of a former activist of the Supreme Court-dissolved Cambodia National Rescue Party (CNRP) – to eight months in prison for “inciting serious social unrest” and “insulting public officials”.
According to the terms imposed by the municipal court judge, Sovanchhay will serve four months and 15 days in prison with the remaining time suspended while he is placed on probationary status under judicial supervision for a period of two years.
Chin Malin, secretary of state at the justice ministry, told The Post on November 2 that – based on the national laws of Cambodia – all minors who are over 14 years of age shall be held criminally responsible for any offences they commit with their sentencing subject to a number of mitigating conditions including reduction or suspension.
“Enforcement of the law through our judiciary – with due process that follows all of the applicable legal procedures – is not a violation of anyone’s human rights,” he said. “In fact it is the promotion of human rights and necessary to upholding the rule of law in a democratic society.”
Malin pointed out that minors have not only gone to prison in the US but have actually been given the death penalty and executed there in past years.
“On the contrary, it’s not as if the competent authorities here resorted to violence and shot the suspect dead extra-judicially on the basis of his colour or race because that would be a real and serious violation of human rights,” Malin said, referencing the ongoing controversy in the US over police officers’ widespread use of lethal violence, which occurs at a higher rate against minorities and frequently under questionable circumstances.