JAILED newspaper publisher Hang Chakra "could be freed" because of his failing health, Information Minister Khieu Kanharith said Tuesday.
In a meeting with Cambodian journalists, the minister acknowledged that reversing the court's decision would not be easy but said his deteriorating health could prove enough to secure his release. "No one can make any promises," he said, but he noted that if Hang Chakra were granted amnesty - which can only be done by the King - the government would release him.
Last month, Hang Chakra's lawyer, Choung Chou Ngy, expressed concern over his client's "faltering health", saying he had lost weight since being incarcerated at Prey Sar. The minister's comments were welcomed by Touch Nora, president of the Cambodia Watch of Journalists Association, who described it as a glimmer of hope. "This compromise is hopeful," he said.
Hang Chakra was convicted in June of defamation and publishing false information in a series of articles accusing officials working for Deputy Prime Minister Sok An of corruption. He 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.