Chhoeun Chanthan, a former high-ranking officer of the Royal Cambodian Armed Forces and chief bodyguard to the late Senate president Chea Sim, has been granted a royal pardon following a request by Prime Minister Hun Sen, a Justice Ministry official said yesterday.
According to the Royal Decree signed on November 12 by King Norodom Sihamoni, the pardon was granted to former Lieutenant General Chanthan, who was convicted and sentenced to 26 years in jail by the Military Court in 2011.
Mr Chanthan appealed the judgement and had his sentence reduced to 15 years in 2015 by the Court of Appeal.
In October 2017, Mr Chanthan appealed to the Supreme Court seeking an early release, on the grounds he had served seven of the 15 years with good behaviour, but the court upheld the Appeal Court’s verdict.
“It is ordered to pardon prisoner Chhoeun Chnathan, 41, over charges of breach of trust, intentional destruction and embezzlement of state properties, illegal distribution of weapons, and destruction of military material,” the Royal Decree said.
Mr Chanthan was arrested in August 2011 along with his three bodyguards at his luxury residence in Boeng Keng Kang III commune in Phnom Penh’s Chamkar Mon district.
Military police seized weapons, including one Chinese-made machine gun with three cases of ammunition, five pistols and one AK-47 rifle, as well as another machine gun and more than 1,400 bullets.
Hundreds of items of military clothing and other military materials were also taken from his house.
Justice Ministry spokesman Chin Malin yesterday said that the pardon was requested by the head of government.
“Prime Minister Hun Sen requested a pardon,” Mr Malin said. “We do not know the reason because it is the Prime Minister’s right to request for a pardon for any prisoner if he thinks it can benefit the nation and society.”
Defence Ministry spokesman General Chhum Sucheat yesterday said that he wasn’t aware of the pardon.
“I don’t know about that case and I am not sure if he can be reinstated to work at RCAF,” Gen Sucheat said when asked if Mr Chnathan could get back his position in the armed forces.
Ney Thol, Military Court director, yesterday said that Mr Chanthan was released from military prison after he was granted the pardon by the King.
“He was freed in November after we saw the royal decree pardoning him,” Mr Thol said.
Puth Theavy, Mr Chanthan’s lawyer, yesterday said that his client had requested the pardon.
“He was released from prison about one or two months ago,” Mr Theavy said. “He requested for the pardon personally and I don’t know the reason.”