Photo by: Heng Chivoan
Hang Chakra, publisher of the Khmer Machas Srok newspaper, leaves Phnom Penh Municipal Court after a June 2009 hearing.
IMPRISONED newspaper editor Hang Chakra is expected to receive a royal pardon in time for Khmer New Year, officials said Monday, but it is still unclear exactly when he will be released, and both officials and Hang Chakra’s family say they have not been given a specific date.
Pov Buntheoun, director of the Criminal Department at the Justice Ministry, said Monday that Hang Chakra was on a list of 404 prisoners sent to King Norodom Sihamoni in early April as part of an amnesty request by the Ministry of Interior. Traditionally, the King offers pardons or reduced sentences to select prisoners at festivals like Khmer New Year.
“Hang Chakra is a priority candidate in the list of requests for pardon,” said Pov Buntheoun. “However, so far, I have not received a Royal Decree of pardon from the King and we cannot force the King to sign. Therefore we are just waiting.”
Hang Chakra, the former editor-in-chief of the opposition-aligned Khmer Machas Srok newspaper, was sentenced to one year in prison last June after a court convicted him of spreading disinformation.
It came after his newspaper published a series of stories alleging corruption among high-ranking officials. The next month, Hang Chakra wrote to Prime Minister Hun Sen to apologise, pledging not to report on the corruption allegations again if he were to be released.
On Monday, Hang Chakra’s daughter said her family has received no information on when her father will be freed.
“My father told me he would be happy if he would be released from prison before the Khmer New Year in order to gather with the family,” said Hang Chan Pisey. “He wishes that the news being spread about his release will come true.”
Meanwhile, Khmer Machas Srok stopped publishing earlier this month for financial reasons, according to the paper’s new editor in chief, Chum Sophal, who hopes to restart operations after Hang Chakra’s release.
“We are in a difficult situation for publishing our newspaper because we were facing a lot of pressure,” he said. “Our advertising clients would withdraw [their advertisements] when they received pressure from the government.”