50 convicts get pardons for Khmer New Year

Justice Ministry official Soch Sophanara briefs the media last week on the 321 applications the ministr received for royal pardons and sentence reductions. Of those, 50 applicants are granted early release or shorter prison sentences.
Justice Ministry official Soch Sophanara briefs the media last week on the 321 applications the ministr received for royal pardons and sentence reductions. Of those, 50 applicants are granted early release or shorter prison sentences. Hong Menea

Eight prisoners are expected to walk free on Saturday, the beneficiaries of the Cambodia's traditional Khmer New Year pardons.

The Ministries of Interior and Justice, which received 321 requests for clemency before the holiday, on Wednesday said it would grant amnesty to 50 applicants. In addition to the eight pardons, another 42 are to have their prison terms reduced, including six women, said Kim Santepheap, spokesman at the ministry.

Santepheap declined to identify the pardoned prisoners or to describe the crimes for which they were imprisoned.

Last year the pardoning system came under fire when it was revealed several rapists were among those handed shorter sentences during holiday pardons, and Licadho’s Am Sam Ath said the system was open to abuse through bribery and corruption.

The pardons and sentence reductions must still be signed off by the King.

Prime Minister Hun Sen has vowed that there will be no pardons for political prisoners, including opposition leader Kem Sokha, who was jailed for “treason” in September last year and is awaiting trial.

General Prisons Department spokesman Nut Veasna claimed Cambodia “does not have political prisoners”, but noted that imprisoned “activists” were not eligible for pardons as they had not yet served two-thirds of their sentence as required.