Five men convicted in December, 2005 for their participation in an abortive coup attempt have been granted pardons by King Norodom Sihamoni, although only one of the five has been released.
The pardons for the five former members of the Sam Rainsy Party – sentenced to 15 years jail each for terrorism and creating an armed force – came via royal decree on September 22.
On November 24, 2000, a group of California-based Cambodian Freedom Fighters members armed with AK-47s, grenades and B-40 rockets launched an attack on several government buildings. The ensuing battle left eight dead.
Days later, five men were arrested on charges of aiding a CFF attempt to topple the ruling Cambodian People’s Party.
“Samdech Aka Moha Senapakdey Techo Hun Sen, prime minister of the Kingdom of Cambodia, must carry out this royal decree accomplishedly. This royal decree is in effect from the signature day on,” the decree stated.
But although Seng Narin, 52, has already been released, Tomloab Mil, 52, Bun Chanto, 48, Hem Bunthoeun, 45, and Chan Bunkhen, 42, remain behind bars.
Ven Ra, the wife of Bun Chanto and a Pailin province council member, expressed surprise at the decision, saying the five convicts’ families and the SRP had requested the King’s pardon in 2009 and 2010 without success.
But although her husband remains imprisoned nearly a month after the royal decree, Ven Ra did not comment about the slow-moving process, saying only that she was waiting for her husband to be released.
Ven Ra said her husband had been the SRP deputy president in Pailin province and Hem Bunthoeun had been the provincial party president, adding that her family remained loyal to the SRP.
Seng Narin, Tomloab Mil and Chan Bunkhen had been soldiers before their arrest, but had always supported the SRP, she said.
Seng Narin could not be reached for comment, but his daughter Sor Davy told the Post yesterday she had received her father’s pardon on Thursday.
He was subsequently released from Kampong Cham’s Sre Klong prison, she said.
The official who delivered the royal decree told her the other four men would be released this week, she added.
SRP spokesman Yim Sovann expressed his thanks for the pardon, but said he regretted the delay in the release of the four men – whose arrests he claimed had been politically motivated – and criticised the court and prison officials for not implementing the decree with immediate effect.
Yim Sovann said the fact that only one man has been released since the decree was issued showed that court and prison officials had “abused human rights and looked down on the King’s decision”.
He added that the SRP would welcome the members’ return to the party if they wanted to rejoin it.
Bunn Hunn, under-secretary of state for the Ministry of Justice, said the King’s pardon was dependent on a decree that mandates convicts must serve two-thirds of their prison sentence and demonstrate to prison offic-ials that they had changed their attitude before the head of government could request a pardon from the King.