Deputy prime minister and president of the National Authority for Combating Drugs (NACD) Ke Kim Yan has urged that legal proceedings against major drug criminals be closely monitored to ensure they do not use influence or wealth to escape charges.

At a congress meeting on Monday to review the work of the NACD, he said the authority’s ability to legally punish criminals in connection with drugs remained an issue, especially in major cases, because of the power wielded by drug lords.

“These criminals are very influential in society and have acquired a lot of wealth through their illegal drugs businesses. In some cases, their influence and wealth have managed to get in the way of our justice system.

“Some sentences remain doubtful. We need to be extra careful that drug dealers at any level are punished according to their crimes,” he said.

Kim Yan requested the law enforcement department of the NACD to monitor all major cases without exception.

However, he said the annual assessment of law enforcement showed positive results in the war against drugs, with last year seeing a total of 9,806 drug cases completed – an increase of more than 22 per cent.

A total of 20,490 suspects were detained – an increase of more than 24 per cent – and 750kg of drugs seized, an increase of nearly 34 per cent, compared to 2018.

The report said during operations, the police had cracked down on ringleaders and cut off the contact points for networks in 61 major drug dealing cases.

The police, it said, had also made drug-related raids and arrests in 12 night clubs, with seven being shut down permanently.

The annual results showed that the arrests had succeeded in minimising drug use in some areas. It also said the impact should have reduced robberies, murders, rapes and public snatching cases.

NACD secretary-general Meas Virith said since launching the campaign against drugs, Minister of Interior Sar Kheng had made it clear that legal action had to be implemented equally against those involved in the trade.

“So, what is the equal implementation of legal action? The law is to be implemented properly, regardless of social status, influence or wealth.

“The offenders must receive due punishment in line with the law. We must not violate the competence of the courts but continue to monitor cases to assess if the implementation of the law during trials is correct or not,” he said.

But, Ministry of Justice spokesman Chin Malin said the court’s rulings did not depend on drug offenders, or whether they are low or high-ranking officials. The courts had always heard cases and made decisions according to law, he said.

“In general, the courts have decided cases based on the exhibits presented and results of investigations conducted.

“Regardless of whether the accused is a small or major drug trafficker, and no matter who is involved, if they are proven guilty, they will be held to the same standards of accountability as anyone else.

“If the courts hear cases incorrectly or there are irregularities, we have legal measures and mechanisms to rectify that,” he said.

Affiliated Network for Social Accountability executive director San Chey said in the past, it was suspected that some people who were involved in drug cases had been given prison sentences, where others were sent to be detained at hospitals.

“We have observed that the courts have implemented the law of double standards for persons charged in drug cases. We have seen what could be selective sentencing cases involving drugs that could have been influenced in some way.

“Even if someone is sentenced to temporary detention in a hospital, it is much more comfortable and convenient than being in jail, so it could be considered preferential treatment,” he said.

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