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Convicts considered for pardons for Khmer New Year

Justice Ministry spokesman Kim Santepheap speaks to the press after the Ministry's meeting on prisoners' pardons during Khmer New Year yesterday in Phnom Penh.
Justice Ministry spokesman Kim Santepheap speaks to the press after the Ministry's meeting on prisoners' pardons during Khmer New Year yesterday in Phnom Penh. Hong Menea

Convicts considered for pardons for Khmer New Year

Officials with the Ministry of Justice held a meeting yesterday to discuss possible clemency for almost 400 prisoners, an annual tradition that coincides with Khmer New Year, officials confirmed.

Among the prisoners being considered are 24 women, 77 who asked for a pardon, and around 300 who asked for reduced prison terms, ministry spokesman Kim Santepheap said.

“If the prisoner has demonstrated good behaviour and served two thirds of their term, then those prisoners could be pardoned,” Santepheap said. “But if the person is in prison for a crime that was brutal, or is considered a danger to society, the committee will not consider their request.”

Santepheap also used the opportunity to affirm that Cambodia “has no political prisoners”, a statement highly contested by rights advocates.

Sorn Keo, a spokesman for the provincial prisons department, said the committee would continue to review cases over the coming days.

Observers have long criticised the annual pardons process as corrupt, alleging that some dangerous prisoners have succeeded in bribing their way to freedom.

Two years ago, Prime Minister Hun Sen ordered the Ministry of Justice to recheck pardon applications from convicted robbers and drug dealers, noting that recidivism is a problem in the Kingdom.

Am Sam Ath, of Licadho, said the pardons should be given as long as they are fair and transparent.

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