Logo of Phnom Penh Post newspaper Phnom Penh Post - ‘Pardon political activists for Pchum Ben’

‘Pardon political activists for Pchum Ben’

Content image - Phnom Penh Post
Opposition lawmaker Um Sam An is escorted through the grounds of the Supreme Court in Phnom Penh in 2016. Heng Chivoan

‘Pardon political activists for Pchum Ben’

A former Cambodia National Rescue Party (CNRP) politician has called for jailed members of the Supreme Court-dissolved opposition party to be among those released after the Ministry of Justice said 319 prisoners had requested pardons ahead of the upcoming Pchum Ben religious festival.

Prime Minister Hun Sun on Sunday talked again of a “large-scale release” of prisoners during Pchum Ben, in addition to the traditional pardons usually given during Khmer New Year and Water Festival, and on Visak Bochea (Buddha Day).

“This year I want to have large-scale pardons during Pchum Ben, Independence Day [on November 9] and the 20th anniversary of the end of the civil war [at the end of December]."

“The Ministry of Justice and Ministry of Interior are reviewing the cases,” the prime minister said during a talk to members of the Cambodian diaspora in the US after attending the United Nations General Assembly in New York.

A former lawmaker with the CNRP, Ou Chanrath, said those in jail due to their political affiliation should be a priority for release, while those in a similar position who have not yet been convicted should have their charges dropped.

“I think those who have been convicted for their political affiliation or [because of such] discrimination should be released. Political activists should be pardoned."

“I believe it would be useful because if they are released, the political situation would be better in view of the local situation and regarding the international community,” Chanrath said.

Ministry of Justice spokesman Chin Malin said on Sunday that 319 prisoners – 169 of whom are women – had requested either a pardon or a reduced sentence for Pchum Ben, which falls in the second week of October.

But Malin said the actual number of those given pardons or reduced sentences would depend on the committee working on the matter. He said the names of the suitable prisoners would be published in a royal decree.

“For this Pchum Ben, the national committee is reviewing the possibility of giving pardons or reducing sentences to prisoners after the instruction from Samdech Techo [Hun Sen].

“These pardons or [sentence] reductions will be on a humanitarian basis, meaning we are considering some target groups such as pregnant women and women with children with them in prison, the elderly or ill,” Malin said.

Malin said although the target groups had been set, the prisoners would also have to show that they had educated themselves while imprisoned and have their suitability backed according to the evaluation of prison officials and the provincial and national level committees.

He explained that prisoners who had shown themselves to have been rehabilitated and had served a third of their jail terms could request a sentence reduction, while those who had served two thirds could request a pardon.

‘Don’t forget’

Hun Sen said on Sunday that the recent release of opposition officials and activists was meant to help unify the Kingdom and allow such prisoners who had educated and reformed themselves to return to society.

“Some people have asked why did I let them get bail. My brothers and sisters! If we can do it, we should try to have Cambodia unified, not separated. When [those who have transgressed] accept their mistakes, if we can, we should [help them]."

“In the context of my power, I have the right to do this. But in the legal context of the court, it is another story. But if the [court] verdict is final, the right to ask for a pardon from the King is the right of the prime minister. “The law states that the prime minister has the right to request pardons from the King at any time,” he said.

The prime minister also pointed out that the recent release of former CNRP members had come about after those concerned had accepted their mistakes and asked for pardons.

“In the case of Um Sam An, he accepted his mistake. I would like to give my word to Um Sam An to stop lying about the letter he wrote – we will keep publishing it. Meach Sovannara and others, don’t forget that you said what you did was wrong and that you would not do such things again,” he said.

MOST VIEWED

  • Volunteer scheme to foster ‘virtuous’ humanitarian spirit

    A senior education official said volunteer work contributes to solidarity and promotes a virtuous humanitarian spirit among the youth and communities. Serei Chumneas, undersecretary of state at the Ministry of Education, Youth and Sport, made the comment during the opening of a training programme called “

  • Chinese firms unveil preliminary results on metro, monorail for capital

    Minister of Public Works and Transport Sun Chanthol and representatives from China Road and Bridge Corp (CRBC) and its parent company, the state-owned China Communications Construction Co Ltd (CCCC), met on June 24 for talks on results of the firms’ preliminary study on a potential metro

  • ACLEDA, WU to enable global money transfers

    Cambodia's largest commercial bank by total assets ACLEDA Bank Plc and global money transfer firm Western Union (WU) have partnered to offer customers cross-border money transfers to 200 countries via “ACLEDA mobile” app. In Channy, president and group managing director of ACLEDA, said the June 22 agreement

  • Cambodia detects new Covid cases after 52 days: PM

    After 52 days of zero new Covid-19 cases, Cambodia has now detected new infections, according to Prime Minister Hun Sen. In his special audio address to the nation late on June 28, Hun Sen said the new cases were detected on people who had undergone PCR tests

  • Gold-covered boundary stone found within Angkor Thom’s West Gate

    The Apsara National Authority (ANA) announced that their working group in charge of restoration work at Angkor Thom's Takav Gate or the West Gate recently found an ancient stone slab commonly known as a boundary stone. The boundary stone is 53 cm by 53 cm and 12 cm

  • Higher education leaders tour US

    With support from the US Department of State, 10 Cambodian leaders in higher education participated in the 10-day International Visitors Leadership Programme (IVLP) in three US states from June 19 to July 1. They included nine university rectors and directors of higher education institutions who are members of