National Military Police commander General Sao Sokha has ordered military officials at all levels across the country to return to the courts property linked to crimes they had borrowed for temporary use.
According to the directive obtained by The Post on Monday, Sokha, who is also deputy commander of the Royal Cambodian Armed Forces, said all property linked to crime and borrowed by the military from the courts must be returned.
“Any officers and deputy officers of the Military Police who have borrowed property from the courts for their work, such as vehicles, motorbikes, bicycles, rifles, handguns, telephones and computers, must return those items to the courts,” Sokha said in the letter.
He ordered commanders of all units to send a report about what has been borrowed to the Intelligence Department by Monday.
Sokha’s move came in response to a decision by the National Authority for Combating Drugs about the confiscation and management of drug-related property, and a Ministry of Justice directive on how to deal with the property involved with crime.
National Military Police spokesman Eng Hy said the directives had been addressed to the Military Police following a request by the courts, but he said that did not mean the Military Police had borrowed any property.
“The courts requested the Ministry of Justice to do this but I don’t know if any property has been borrowed or not,” he said.
Legal expert Sok Sam Oeun said the state is permitted to confiscate illegal property linked to crime, but property that had only been used as evidence in court must be handed back to the owners.
But he said he was not sure whether the property described in Sokha’s letter referred to illegal items or property used only as evidence.
“When the state confiscates property, the courts issue a decision saying it can be burned or used by the state or any state institution,” he said.
Ministry of Justice spokesman Chin Malin said that according to legal principles, property linked to crime must not be borrowed and used unless the court has issued an official decision.
“But in practice, the authorities can use some property that has been unused for a long time, depending on an assessment as to whether doing so affects the crimes involved,” he said.
He said all property must be returned to the court to put up for auction.
“The directive was issued to call for all such property to be returned to the courts after verdicts had been reached. Such property will be put up for auction,” he said.