EIGHT National Assembly lawmakers from the Sam Rainsy Party sent a letter on Tuesday to King Norodom Sihamoni and to Minister of Justice Ang Vong Vathana requesting the pardon of five imprisoned members of the former guerrilla group known as the Cambodian Freedom Fighters (CFF) who were convicted of involvement in a series of attacks in November 2000.
Son Chhay, one of the lawmakers, said Wednesday that the letter had been received by National Assembly President Heng Samrin before being forwarded to the cabinet of the King and to the minister of justice.
“That group of CFF were former members of the SRP; therefore their wives and families have been asking us for intervention to secure their release,” he said.
“The men were tricked into participating in the attacks for political reasons,” he added.
“I talked with the minister of justice on April 27 about the request for a pardon and hope that the men will be free by November during the Water Festival,” he said.
Sam Pracheameanith, chief of cabinet at the Justice Ministry, said Wednesday that he was not yet aware of the letter.
Armed with AK-47s, grenades and B-40 rockets, members of the CFF attacked several government buildings on November 24, 2000, including the Ministry of Defence. At least eight people were killed and 14 wounded in the fighting.
One man, Hem Buntheoun, was sentenced to 13 years in Prey Sar prison, and four other men were sentenced to 15 years each for their role in the attacks.
The staunchly anticommunist but largely ineffectual CFF, led by Cambodian-American Chhun Yasith, emerged after the 1997 factional fighting and the subsequent period of turmoil that saw many influential Cambodian leaders flee the country while the Cambodian People’s Party assumed power.
Earlier this month, families of the five imprisoned CFF men sent a request to the King and Prime Minister Hun Sen in the hope that a pardon would be granted on Visak Bochea Day, which fell Wednesday.