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Government panel reviews 400 clemency pleas

King Norodom Sihamoni watches boat races in Phnom Penh last year, flanked by high-ranking officials.
King Norodom Sihamoni watches boat races in Phnom Penh last year, flanked by high-ranking officials. Heng Chivoan

Government panel reviews 400 clemency pleas

After reviewing more than 400 applications, a government committee may announce today how many convicted criminals will be pardoned and how many will see their sentences reduced as part of King Norodom Sihamoni’s annual granting of clemency before the Water Festival.

Last year, only seven inmates were recommended for the festival pardons – a significant decrease from the 106 who received clemency in 2015.

Kim Sarin, deputy-general director at the Ministry of Interior’s General Department of Prisons, said the committee was reviewing a total of 421 applications, including from 54 seeking pardons, while the rest were asking for leniency in their sentences.

Among them were three prisoners seeking to reduce their life sentences to 20 years in prison, while most were attempting to reduce prison terms by six months to one year.

Among the applicants, four are foreign prisoners, from the UK, Nigeria, China and Vietnam, Sarin said. The Chinese prisoner is facing charges related to intentional violence while the Vietnamese inmate is serving time for human trafficking. No information was disclosed on the other two foreigners.

“Those requests must comply with the condition of the pardons,” he said after a closed-door meeting at the Ministry of Justice yesterday. “They must have good behaviour during their detention.”

Sarin declined to comment when asked by reporters if any of those seeking clemency included politically sensitive figures, such as Boeung Kak activist Tep Vanny, or opposition activists.

Justice Minister Ang Vong Vathana said prisoners could not be granted pardons unless they have served two-thirds of their prison sentences, and reductions in jail time require prisoners having served for one-third of their sentences.

“It will [also] depend on their behaviour modifications,” he added.

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