Minister of Justice Koeut Rith led a meeting of the National Commission of Cambodia to review and request a reduction in sentences or pardons for 273 inmates that Prime Minister Hun Sen can give to the King during the Visak Bochea ceremony on Wednesday, May 6.
The inmates are from 20 prisons and the city-provincial prison and four correctional centres. The inmates include 24 women.
On the occasion of Khmer New Year in mid-April, 155 inmates out of 399, including 18 women, had their offences reviewed and evaluated by a national committee of the ministry.
It was decided to request that Hun Sen further review the recommendations before submitting it to the King for his approval to reduce sentences or grant pardons.
Ministry secretary of state and spokesman Kim Santepheap could not be reached for comment on Wednesday, but he said earlier this month that the pardons are for lesser categories of offenders, including those with little time left, short-term inmates, the elderly, and those who are chronically ill or have disabilities.
“Therefore, we have made a very detailed examination of the inmates who could receive reduced sentences and pardons,” he said.
Nouth Savna, the spokesman for the General Department of Prisons at the Ministry of Interior, posted on Facebook on March 27 that there were nearly 40,000 inmates in prisons across the country.
Rights group Adhoc spokesman Soeng Sen Karuna proposed increasing the number of inmates recommended for reduced sentences and pardons during major national festivals, as the current prison conditions are overcrowded.
“If we look at the legal process we see that minor offences should not be taken into custody while the prison is overcrowded,” he said.
Sen Karuna suggested the government should examine the behaviour of inmates to see if they have changed and understand the mistakes they had made and if so, they should be considered for pardons too.
When he chaired the Annual Meeting of the Cambodian National Council for Women at the Peace Palace on February 17, Hun Sen urged the relevant ministries to speed up the prosecution of imprisoned women.
He also opened up the possibility of renting a hotel if there were not enough courtrooms to conduct hearings. He made the call as the number of women inmates had reached more than 20,000.
“Samdech Techo Hun Sen also urged the Cambodian National Council for Women and the Ministry of Women’s Affairs to further cooperate with the Ministry of Interior in tracking down women who are inmates or offenders to expedite the trial work, including finding defence lawyers for them,” said the prime minister’s Facebook page.