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This Is Not About Guns – It Is About Implementation and Enforcement

By: Norbert Klein Posted: November-10-2010 in
Norbert Klein

The Mirror, Vol. 14, No. 689

During the week, The Mirror had carried two reports entitled Garbage and Gender Makes a Difference. Both referred to positive suggestions and regulations. But one of our readers commented:

It is not clear from the article [about garbage regulations] what happens to the sorted waste from the markets? In any case, increased focus on waste management is important. However, with no publicized master plan and lacking composting facilities public participation in waste separation efforts may be moderate at best.

May I suggest that the requirements of the Phnom Penh Municipality and the actions taken by the market chiefs, is followed up on by journalists in Cambodia.

What happens to the sorted waste leaving the markets? With authorities demanding vendors to sort their waste, vendors should demand that the waste is treated properly later in the process. Following up on the new requirements and keeping focus on the development, will hopefully further the development of waste management services in Phnom Penh and Cambodia in general.

It is surely relevant to look further into the future of waste management in Cambodia. To all journalists out there – I will be happy to see you follow up on this story.

This comment is an example of what has been one of the hopes and purposes of The Mirror from the beginning: to invite to a public dialogue about public affairs. Our reader pointed to the difference between good regulations and the possible lack of proper implementation, or enforcement, where it relates to requirements defined by law.

“To all journalists out there – I will be happy to see you follow up on this story.”

But first two recent events, where again the question is open at the end: what about the implementation of existing regulations, and who will take responsibility to initiate it?

The human rights organization ADHOC – Cambodia Human Rights and Development Organization – observed that related to 10 cases of murders that happened since April 2010 in the province of Kompong Cham, no arrests have been made, according to the Cambodia Daily. In 2 shooting incidents police was involved, “but the case files were never turned over to prosecutors to determine charges.”

When ADHOC tried to investigate the situation further, they were told that some relevant police offices had not received certain related letters, that a gun was accidentally fired in another case, and in still another one it was not clear whether a shot resulting in an injury was fired by police or by a gang member. The ADHOC chief monitor is quoted to have commented:

“Normal people cannot have weapons, only powerful men get them from government officials. Police competence is limited, so offenders go free.”

But the spokesperson of the National Police claimed:

“We do strictly control all the weapons which have to be registered,” while admitting that not all guns are accounted for, as many guns are still around from the time of war.

And the second event:

The controversial process of filling up most of Boeng Kak – the lake in Phnom Penh – and remove the people who have been living around it, and to create modern building complexes for business, including high rise buildings, is dramatically moving ahead with more sand pumped in, destroying some houses where people were still living, people who have not agreed to move out under the conditions offered. The Cambodia Daily reported:

When villagers attempted to stop the workers, an excavator operator brandished an AK-47 and threatened to open fire, villagers said…

Interior Ministry spokesperson Lieutenant-General Khieu Sopheak encouraged the villagers to file a complaint if they saw someone point a weapon to threaten them. “Pointing a gun at people is not provided by the law,” he said.

But Lt-Gen. Sopheak also said that if the man had the necessary permits, he would be allowed to carry the gun.”

Finally some questions:

Is it surprising that a program official of ADHOC, who had witnessed the threatening action by a AK-47, is quoted to have said that the government is serving the company, and not the people?

Whose task is it first, when somebody is being threatened by a gun, to take action? The victim or the agents of the state, entrusted by society and by law to enforce the law?

And what kind of permit would be given to the operator of an excavator to carry an AK-47, as the spokesperson of the Ministry of Interior mentions also this possibility?

For the readers of The Mirror, even those who cannot understand the Khmer language, two video clips show the desperate confrontation, going on since more than one year ago, related to the destruction of the lake and the plight of the people who used to live around it.

One video was taken in August 2010 during a Confrontation betwen Boeung Kak Lake residents and security force in front of the Prime Minister’s mansion Video -1

The other one in October 2010 while Boeung Kak residents protested in front of Phnom Penh Hall Video – 2.

I close by repeating the call of one of our readers – as this applies again here: Who is in charge of implementing and enforcing gun control? To have laws which are not enforced by a state is undermining the very role and function of the state itself.

“To all journalists out there – I will be happy to see you follow up on this story.”

This article was first published by The Mirror, Vol. 14, No. 689 – Sunday, 7.11.2010
Have a look at the last editorial - you can access it directly from the main page of The Mirror.

Norbert Klein is the Editor of The Mirror – The Mirror is a daily comprehensive summary and translation of the major Khmer language press - More about The Mirror

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