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Courts Creating Unstable Environment, Analyst Warns

WASHINGTON DC - Cambodia’s court system is failing to deliver justice to the general public, leading to an undermining of national unity and creating an environment that could lead to unrest and strife, a leading political analyst says.

The court has come under heavy criticism in recent months for the jailing of government critics, dissidents and apparent scapegoats, and for exonerating powerful officials, creating a climate similar to that which brought Pol Pot to power, the analyst, Lao Monghay, told “Hello VOA” Thursday.

“When people cannot depend on [the court], how does it work?” he said. “Injustice is a cause of war, and we have suffered through today. We have never known about ourselves.”

The courts have become a divisive element in society, failing to punish some while unjustly punishing others, he said. “We see it today,” he said. “Small people and the weak are quickly imprisoned and those who have relations with high officials are not just quickly arrested, but quickly freed. This is a division of society, so there is no unity.”

As evidence, Lao Monghay pointed to the dropped charges against former Bavet governor, Chhouk Bandith, who was accused of firing into a crowd of demonstrating garment workers in Svay Rieng last year. He pointed to imprisonment of Mam Sonando, an independent radio broadcaster, Yorm Bopha, a housing rights activist, and Born Samnang and Sok Samoeun, who are widely considered scapegoats in the murder of a popular labor activist. He also pointed to the failed investigation of murdered environmentalist Chhut Wutty.

The judiciary has far removed itself from the public he said, “as a skeleton that is not attached to the flesh.”

Under the constitution, the courts should be independent and neutral, apart from political or financial influence. Today’s courts are anything but, he said.