A senior Justice Ministry official yesterday said the number of prisoners set to receive royal pardons for Pchum Ben festival is still undecided.
Ministry spokesman Kim Santepheap said the ministry is waiting for provincial and municipal prisons to pass their requests for pardons to local jail-term reduction commissions.
The requests will then need to be checked by a national commission before being sent to the King for approval.
“Local jail-term reduction commissions have to send their requests for pardons to the national commission,” Mr Santepheap said.
“Eligible prisoners must have served one-third or more of their sentence to be considered for release or sentence reduction.”
He said prisoners must also have improved their behaviour since being behind bars.
“The national commission then has to consider the type of offence and the potential impact on victims,” he added.
In late 2015, Prime Minister Hun Sen asked an inter-ministerial committee responsible for prisoners’ sentence reductions to stop pardoning inmates with a history of robbery and drug crimes, over fears they could re-offend.
According to a report by rights group Licadho, the organisation currently considers 19 people detained in prison to be political prisoners, including environmental campaigners, monks, students, activists, representatives of opposition parties, and human rights workers.
Seoung Sen Karona, a monitor for rights group Adhoc, urged local jail-term reduction commissions to be transparent in their work and avoid bribery or corruption.
“Poor people, land activists, human rights activists and political activists never receive pardons,” he said.
“They should be considered for release because they have worked to serve the interests of society rather than harming anyone.”
Mr Santepheap said all requests from local jail-term reduction commissions would be treated on their own merit and considered by the ministry, including for jailed activists.
The government asks the King to provide royal pardons for prisoners three times a year, on Khmer New Year, Visak Bochea day and Pchum Ben.