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Pardoned prisoners are released from Prey Sar prison last year.
Pardoned prisoners are released from Prey Sar prison last year. Vireak Mai

Officials prep list of Water Festival pardonees

Provincial officials are preparing a proposed list of prisoners to be pardoned during the Water Festival in November, according to Ministry of Justice spokesman Chin Malin.

The list is first drawn up at the provincial level, and then narrowed down by a national committee and finally approved by King Norodom Sihamoni.

In the past, the system of pardons has been subject to criticisms for being politically motivated or driven by bribery.

“Some prisoners fit the criteria to be released but they don’t have any money,” said Am Sam Ath, a senior official at human rights group Licadho. “We demand that these committees evaluate the pardons properly.”

Malin, however, said proof of corruption was necessary to back up any such allegations.

“We would like critics to offer evidence of the irregularity and who commits it,” he said.

Bart Vermeiren, head of mission at the International Committee of the Red Cross, said royal pardons were often part of “political schemes”.

“There’s nothing wrong with a royal pardon if it’s made on fair and objective criteria,” he said, adding that this was unfortunately not usually the case.

Additional reporting by Andrew Nachemson

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