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Cambodia; Indonesia; Malaysia; Papua New Guinea; Philippines; Thailand: Regional Agreement on Protecting Witnesses and Victims

(Nov. 25, 2013) Cambodia, Indonesia, Malaysia, Papua New Guinea, the Philippines, and Thailand have agreed to establish a technical agency charged with improving cooperation among their national agencies in protecting witnesses and victims of transnational crime. The agreement was reached during a meeting held in Kuta, on the Indonesian island of Bali, that ended on November 13, 2013. That meeting was a follow-up to a meeting held a year ago in Nusa Dua, another location on Bali. (Desy Nurhayati, Agency to Be Established to Protect Crime Witnesses, Victims, THE JAKARTA POST (Nov. 14, 2013).)

Among the concerns discussed was the need to set up effective physical protection for witnesses, such as by relocating them, limiting the disclosure of information about them, and creating evidentiary rules that would permit them to give testimony while being protected from possible retaliation or intimidation. (Id.)

According to the chairman of the Witness and Victim Protection Agency of Indonesia, Abdul Haris Semendawai, the nations will build a regional network to encourage cooperation, including a technical organization devoted to witness protection that will seek assistance to develop training on witness and victim protection for national agencies and facilitating data-sharing. (Id.)

The participating nations reported on their national progress on protection issues. The delegate from Cambodia, Police Brigadier General Say Mengcheang, reported that that country has a three-year plan of action and has already set up working groups focused on protecting crime victims. In the Philippines witness protection laws give witnesses and informants rewards and incentives. The Thai delegates to the meeting stated that Thailand now has two laws on victim and witness protection and will compensate victims of some types of crimes through a special justice fund. The Assistant Commissioner of Police of Malaysia, Arshad bin Abdul Jalil, described the enactment of the Witness Protection Act in 2009 and the conclusion of bilateral agreements with several other nations, along with cooperation with Europol. (Id.; Act 696, Witness Protection Act 2009, LAWS OF MALAYSIA (May 1, 2013).)

Semendawai summarized the meetings, stating that,

The countries are all aware that the rights of these victims and witnesses have not been adequately recognized, and are aware that victims and witnesses and others who aid them are unjustly subjected to threats, harassment, loss, damage, injury and that they may suffer hardship when assisting in the prosecution of offenders. (Nurhayati, supra.)