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SRP pursues King’s help to free editor

PARLIAMENTARIANS from the opposition Sam Rainsy Party met with King Norodom Sihamoni on Tuesday to request that he grant amnesty to jailed newspaper publisher and editor in chief Hang Chakra.

Hang Chakra, who runs the opposition paper Khmer Machas Srok, was convicted in June of defamation and publishing false information in a series of articles that appeared in his newspaper accusing officials working for Deputy Prime Minister Sok An of corruption.

The publisher was sentenced to one year in prison and fined 9 million riels (US$2,187). The Court of Appeal rejected his case on August 11.
SRP lawmaker Son Chhay said that an 18-member delegation met with the King on Tuesday to report on the legislature’s recent activities and to request amnesty for Hang Chakra.

The King did not offer a definitive statement on the case, Son Chhay said, though the monarch has already written a letter to Minister of Justice Ang Vong Vathana asking that the Supreme Council of the Magistracy examine Hang Chakra’s situation.

“The King is waiting for the government’s response. He promised that he will do what he can,” Son Chhay said, acknowledging that he was unsure of whether the King’s attention would be enough to free Hang Chakra.

Council of Ministers spokesman Phay Siphan said the government has no power to intervene in this case, particularly because it was the original plaintiff against Hang Chakra.

“The government cannot play both plaintiff and judge,” Phay Siphan said. “The court has given Hang Chakra a verdict – it is the court’s case.”

The government’s duty, Phay Siphan said, is to enforce the law rather than to interpret it, and as such, he was unsure that any government body would have the power to grant amnesty to Hang Chakra.

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