Prime Minister Hun Sen has ordered the ministries of Justice and Women’s Affairs to study the possibility of pardoning female convicts or reducing their jail terms without waiting for national holidays, the traditional time for such action.
During an early event on Tuesday to mark the 108th International Women’s Day at the capital’s Koh Pich Convention and Exhibition Centre, Hun Sen said he had special privilege to request royal pardons for inmates.
The move coincides with the prime minister setting up a legal aid team of voluntary lawyers to defend women across the Kingdom who cannot afford representation. The government’s chief lawyer, Ky Tech, is tasked with leading it.
“Ky Tech, who is also my family’s personal lawyer and the head of my legal team, is already prepared. Now I request the Ministry of Women’s Affairs and its municipal and provincial departments to cooperate with Hun Sen’s legal aid team,” the prime minister said.
“Who is our target as a first step? It’s women who have not been convicted and who need lawyers. We need to do that first. Sometimes they are detained without a lawyer meaning their cases cannot proceed because they can’t afford lawyers, so [from now on] I’ll pay for their representation,” he said.
The prime minister also ordered the Ministry of Justice to work with the Ministry of Women’s Affairs in finding ways to help female inmates receive pardons or a reduced sentence.
“As pointed out in our previous meeting, we have two targets – female convicts and women who have been charged but lack representation. For the first target, we need to review the possibility of pardoning or reducing their sentences without having to wait for national holidays. If their situation is tough, we can grant pardons without delay because the law on prisons allows the prime minister to request royal pardons at any time."
“For the second target, we have to make the best use of our lawyers. The Ministry of Women’s Affairs has funding from the government as does the Ministry of Justice. Now coupled with my lawyers, we can complement each other to defend poor women [across the country],” he said.
Hun Sen also encouraged garment workers to seek help from his newly established legal team, which comprises over 60 lawyers, if they cannot afford to pay for representation.
Ministry of Justice spokesman Chin Malin told The Post on Tuesday that royal pardons and sentence reductions are generally granted on either the main Cambodian national holidays, at the prime minister’s behest or both.
Malin said his ministry is working with the Ministry of Women’s Affairs on the situation.
He said it is also seeking to expedite legal proceeding so that women can have speedy trials.
“We are checking legal and humanitarian principles, and reviewing all cases in order to reach the stage of receiving pardons or reductions in prison terms.”
Nuth Savana, spokesman of the General Department of Prison of the Ministry of Interior, said that as of Saturday, there were around 2,511 women officially sentenced by the courts or temporarily detained pending trial.