The Justice Ministry said yesterday that inmates now have three additional opportunities to request royal pardons.
Last year, inmates had three periods to make a request to be pardoned: Khmer New Year in April, the Water Festival in November and Visak Bochea Day in May.
This year, the government decided to extend the periods to also review pardon requests during Pchum Benh in October, Independence Day in November and Win-Win Policy Day in December.
The ministry said hundreds of requests are being reviewed for the upcoming Water Festival holiday in November.
Soch Sophannara, a deputy general-director of the ministry’s penal department, said 523 prisoners, including 37 women, are requesting to be pardoned for their crimes.
Mr Sophannara said according to the law, prisoners who completed two-thirds of their sentence may request to be pardoned, while prisoners who completed a third of their sentence, may request for a sentence reduction.
“We also examine their behaviour when making this decision,” he said. “We examine prisoners who are 65-years or older, prisoners with a serious illness and women with children.”
“The government is doing this for humanitarian reasons,” he added.
Och Pong, a deputy director-general of the Interior Ministry’s penal department, said there are 31,226 prisoners nationwide. Mr Pong said that 140 children also live with their mothers in prison.
Mr Pong said more days for pardons means that prisons will be less crowded.
“Royal pardons will reduce the number of prisoners who are currently occupying crowded prisons,” he said. “Prisons are crowded and we are finding a solution.”
In 2017, 48 out of 421 prisoners who requested pardons were released or had their sentence reduced during the Water Festival.
Last week, Senate members asked the Interior Ministry to build more prisons in order to reduce overcrowding in jails.
The prison population in the country increased by nearly 30 percent in 2017 when compared to 2016, an annual report released in February by the General Department of Prisons showed.
A 2012 report published by rights group Licadho said its monitored prisons averaged about 13 percent growth in population per year and the system was on track to become the world’s most overcrowded by 2019.