A senior Ministry of Interior official has spoken of problems caused by having
two classes of convicted murderers in Cambodia's prisons, each group serving
People found guilty of murder under the old State of
Cambodia (SoC) regime were sentenced to life imprisonment - while those
convicted under the current UNTAC penal law get between 10-20 year's
Tom Or, first deputy chief of the ministry's Prison Department,
said the inmates sentenced under SoC were unhappy and jealous about the
Prison guards had reported problems controlling these inmates,
who had caused trouble such as instigating escape attempts and refusing to obey
The issue was contributing to delays in introducing prison
initiatives such as vocational skills training for inmates, because "we can only
think about guarding them".
Tom Or said he had asked court officials to
consider whether they could reduce the life sentences handed down under SoC, but
had been told that could not be done.
Phnom Penh Municipal Court
President Oum Sarith told the Post the courts had to pass judgment on the basis
of the law that was in force at the time of sentencing.
Nothing could be
done for the inmates sentenced under SoC law "because they committed their
wrong-doings then. They didn't wait for the lighter [UNTAC] laws."
inmates, however, had the chance to have their prison terms reduced after they
had served two-thirds of their original sentence.
Prison officials could
seek a Royal decree reducing sentences for inmates who had served two-thirds,
and who had behaved themselves in prison.
But there is no clear
definition of what two-thirds of a life sentence was, according to Sarith's
deputy, Nup Sophon.
The King, in some cases, had sought that inmates'
life sentences be reduced to 20 years in prison, so that could be considered as
two-thirds of their sentence.
Currently, the King grants reduced
sentences for some inmates three times a year - at the Water Festival, the Pisak
Bochea (Buddha's birthday) and Khmer New Year.
Under the SoC
administration, the State Council had the power to reduce sentences or pardon
prisoners, according to Sophon. He said SoC also had the death sentence until
1989, when it was abolished.
Official figures on how many convicted
murders are in Cambodia's prisons were not available.