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New Year Pardons Delayed to Visak Bochea Day

Ros Chanveasna / Khmer Times Share:

The Ministry of Justice has announced that Royal pardons and reductions of prison sentences have been pushed back to Visak Bochea Day in May, as a result of prisons not offering enough information about potential candidates.
In a letter released on Thursday, the ministry said that so far, the National Committee tasked with choosing the final list of inmates eligible for release or sentence reduction has received pardon applications from 12 provinces.
However, the ministry said that not all the proposals followed the correct requirements, with many lacking information about the inmates themselves. “Therefore, the national committee has decided to delay the examining of the proposals, which were sent from different local committees, to the other day of Visak Bochea,” the letter read.
The ministry also called on local committees to remain vigilant, examine prisoner’s behavior in custody and include the history of each inmate’s criminal charges before sending their proposals for examination.
Nut Savenea, spokesman for the Ministry of Interior’s General Department of Prisons, told Khmer Times he agreed with the national committee’s decision.
“It doesn’t matter for us because it will let us more closely re-examine those prisoners and who should be released and have sentence reductions.”
Mr. Savenea said that additionally, the Interior Ministry will organize a party for the Kingdom’s roughly 19,000 inmates across its 28 prisons , offering food, prayer to monks and access to traditional Khmer games inside the prisons as part of the New Year celebrations.
“Every year, we always prepare a party for all prisoners and this year, we will organize the same parties for them to make them feel happy during Khmer New Year and join to eat food together.”
Am Sam Ath, senior technical supervisor for local rights group Licadho, could not be reached yesterday, but told Khmer Times in previous interviews that the pardoning process was rife with issues and corruption.
King Norodom Sihamoni grants Royal pardons and clemency to prisoners on special occasions, including Khmer New Year, Visak Bochea Day and the last Water Festival.
“Some prisoners, such as robbers or drug dealers, had not reformed yet, but their names were still on the pardon list,” he said late last year. These convicts, he said, had paid bribes to have their names added to the lists.
He said that if the pardon system is reformed to prevent corruption, then dangerous criminals will not be set loose.
“[Those cases] might [have been] involved with bribes, which can sway the decision over which convicts are set free.”    

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