Khmer Rise Party (KRP) president Sok Sovann Vathana Sabung on Thursday criticised the police for the wrongful arrest of a man suspected of trafficking, storing and using drugs.
He also urged the authorities at all levels to carry out their duties and obligations lawfully to avoid public criticism.
His remarks came after the National Police’s Anti-Drug Department officials arrested a 19-year-old in connection to a case in the capital’s Stung Meanchey commune in Meanchey district on December 10. The arrest has drawn strong criticism from social media users.
In a Facebook post, Vathana Sabung announced that although he had given his full support to the police’s anti-drug campaign, the recent arrest saw violations by the authorities.
He said the authorities should have searched for evidence before detaining the suspect. If the suspect was not caught in the act, they needed to have evidence.
If, after a search, evidence of a crime was found, they could detain him and build a case to be forwarded to court.
“In the case of this person, he was suspected of being involved. The police should have taken in him for questioning and searched for evidence. He should not have been handcuffed before the search for evidence.
“After he was brought to the station, seven packets of drugs were found on him. Why didn’t the police search for evidence before arresting him?” he wrote.
He said as law enforcers, the authorities at all levels should carry out their roles and duties accordingly to avoid earning distrust and a loss of confidence from the public.
“However, if [the police] still make the same mistakes and fails to change, then the legal system has the authority to take action against the officers involved,” he said.
The Anti-Drug Department, in a Facebook post, announced that at 4:30pm on December 10, the department, along with Phnom Penh municipal court prosecutor Hoeng Bunthorn, cracked down on an illegal drug trafficking operation and detained the suspect, who was carrying 21.62g of methamphetamine while dealing with a client.
Based on the investigation, the department concluded that the suspect, “male, did traffic, store and use illegal addictive substances. Currently the Anti-Drug Department is building a case file on the suspect with the evidence to proceed with legal action”.
The department said the suspect’s arrest was made based on an investigation by specialists and carried out according to the law. Its deputy chief In Song said on Sunday that the suspect had been charged and sent to Prey Sar prison on Friday.
Meas Sovann, the director of the Drug Addict Relief Association of Cambodia, said the police had to have clear evidence, witnesses and warrants before arresting the accused.
If the public loses confidence in the police, he said it could undermine collaborations between residents and police forces in cracking down on drugs.
“If arrests are made contrary to the law, it will undermine efforts in the anti-drug campaign,” he said,
The Anti-Drug Department requested the public and media outlets to cooperate with the police to stop drug-related crimes.
“When our police are conducting an operation, please don’t report it yet. Let our police continue to investigate first so we can arrest the ringleaders and others involved,” the department said.
Both Anti-Drug department director Loek Vannak and secretary-general of the National Authority for Combating Drugs Meas Virith declined to comment on Vathana Sabung’s remarks.