Prime Minister Hun Sen yesterday told the Ministry of Justice to re-check pardon applications from convicted robbers and drug dealers, saying that recidivism is a big problem in the Kingdom.
The premier’s statement, made in a speech on Koh Pich, follows a turbulent weekend rife with armed robberies in Phnom Penh, Kandal, Pursat and Battambang.
Many of those arrested had prior criminal histories, he said.
“Armed robbers and drug distributors should not be freed so often,” said Hun Sen. “According to the report of the military police and the police, the robbers are [former] prisoners who had been freed recently.”
Justice Ministry spokesman Chin Malin said that the ministry will examine the decision-making process used in pardon determinations to make it “more impartial” and “better”.
“Our mechanism is approved from the low to the high levels and it involves all the parties, such as ministries, prosecutors, police and prisons,” he said.
“We have to check our mechanism so we can figure out whether the prisoners are eligible to be released or not.”
National Police spokesman Kirth Chantharith said that he fully supports the prime minister’s statement.
He said that two of the people arrested in Battambang for an armed robbery this weekend have been to jail before, though he did not identify which ones.
The same is true of many violent criminals apprehended by the police, he said.
“Sometimes, they don’t just have [armed robbery] on their records,” he said. “Sometimes, it’s other crimes.”
Am Sam Ath, technical supervisor at rights group Licadho, which has long criticised the pardon process, welcomed the call for review.
“Some prisoners complain that they already changed their characteristics but do not get a pardon, while the ones that remain bad are pardoned because they have money,” he said.
“In the pardon process, it is necessary to make sure that they changed their attitude, or else they will commit the same thing after being released.”
Hun Sen also called on all levels of law enforcement to put more effort into intercepting violent criminals and drug dealers and on the public to help them.
“People have to cooperate with authorities by providing information in order to capture those armed robbers,” he said.
Additional reporting by Igor Kossov and Phak Seangly