Anti-Drug Authority Asks Courts to Speed Up Drug Prosecutions

Anti-drug authority officials on Tuesday said they were seeking legal means to speed up court procedures and liquidate the seized assets of suspected drug traffickers before they are convicted to help fund the government’s ongoing efforts to combat drugs.

Heads of the National Authority for Combating Drugs (NACD) said facilitating the government’s faster sale of confiscated vehicles and other property from accused traffickers would ensure the state was acquiring the fullest value of the goods.

Kao Khondara, vice chairman of the NACD, requested cooperation between court officials and the government’s six-person confiscation committee, an interministerial body created to manage and distribute confiscated property, during a meeting on Tuesday in Phnom Penh.

The NACD was requesting that courts “accelerate the procedures of investigation and the trial…in order to allow the committee to sell off those properties in a timely manner rather than let them sit and become unusable,” Mr. Khondara told gathered officials from the ministries of interior, justice and finance and National Military Police.

The goal was “to take the money to serve in the work of fighting against drugs and encouraging law enforcement officers,” he said.

Under current laws, ownership of confiscated assets can only be transferred to the state after a verdict has been issued, said You Bunleng, the Appeal Court’s president.

“If it has to do with confiscating people’s property like this, there needs to be a [new] written law,” Mr. Bunleng said.

Drawing up methods for securing suspected criminals’ assets would have to be done after collecting suggestions from relevant officials, Meas Vyrith, secretary-general of the NACD, said after the meeting.

“We might prepare a law regarding the management of [confiscated] evidence, or amend the code of criminal procedure or administer it through a sub-decree,” he said.

Gloria Lai, a senior policy officer at the International Drug Policy Consortium, said if court procedures became compromised by the government’s plan to hasten asset forfeiture, there would be cause for concern.

“It would be problematic if boosting state revenue became a motivation for securing convictions through prosecution and sentencing processes that do not accord with the rule of law,” she said in an email on Tuesday.

Nearly $30,000 in cash, 54 cars and 938 motorbikes were seized by authorities during the first six months of the government’s anti-drug campaign, which started in January and was extended till the end of this year, the NACD said in a Facebook post on Tuesday.

(Additional reporting by Matt Surrusco)

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