He appears to have met few of the legal conditions, but a former senior police official who was convicted on drug-related corruption charges was among the more than 400 prisoners granted royal pardons earlier this month, according to government documents.
To coincide with the cremation of King Father Norodom Sihanouk, 412 prisoners had their sentences slashed and were released on February 4.
Listed among them in a sub-decree published in the February 8 edition of the Royal Gazette is former Banteay Meanchey deputy police chief Chheang Son.
It is unclear how Son could be considered eligible for a pardon. Pardons ostensibly focus on the sick, the elderly and mothers of small children, but the chief requirement is that a prisoner has served two-thirds of his sentence.
Son was arrested in January, 2011 and later sentenced to four years’ jail for soliciting bribes from drug traffickers.
At the time of his release, he still had seven months remaining before two-thirds of his sentence had been served.
Kuy Bunsorn, director general of the department of prisons, said he did not know why Son was released and referred questions to Royal Palace Minister Kong Sam Ol, saying the names initially came from him. Sam Ol could not be reached.
The amnesty of Son raises more doubts over the pardon process, which has been heavily criticised by rights groups and prisoners alike.
They say the spirit of such amnesties has been all but destroyed by rampant corruption, with prison officials demanding bribes in order to add prisoners to their list of recommended pardonees.
“There should be more investigation on why it is happening like this,” senior Adhoc investigator Chan Soveth said.
He noted that no one arrested in relation to land disputes or rights issues was on the list, even if they could be considered highly eligible.
“Prisoners who had served two-thirds of their sentence or had just months left did not receive pardons, but a famous official who took bribes in exchange for letting drug trafficking suspect free is eligible.”
To contact the reporter on this story: May Titthara at [email protected]