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Jail limbo inmates walk free

Mom Sophon / Khmer Times Share:
KT/Chor Sokunthea

Banteay Meanchey Provincial Court on Wednesday released 13 prisoners who were serving jail time despite having completed sentences imposed by Thai authorities.

Deputy prosecutor and court spokesman Sok Keo Bandit said an unspecified number of other inmates transferred from Thai jails would remain incarcerated serving sentences for additional offences.

“The other prisoners are being detained on warrants for different offences and have to continue serving their sentences,” he said.

The decision to release the prisoners came after an Appeal Court prosecutor asked the provincial court to determine how many prisoners were serving time over the duration of their sentences after being transferred from Thailand.

Deputy prosecutor General Svay Samnang sent a letter to the court this month, asking the provincial prosecutor to ensure any prisoners serving time in excess of their sentences were immediately released.

Mr Samnang noted that he had received information from the UN Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights in Cambodia relating to the detention of prisoners past their sentences.

Soum An, the mother of prisoner Ly Reth, said Banteay Meanchey provincial prison had detained her child for more than a year past his sentence.

She travelled to meet her son as he was released last night and said she was overjoyed to have him back with the family after a decade behind bars.

“I’m so glad that my son is free. I came from Takeo province to pick him up from the prison in Banteay Meanchey. I couldn’t sleep because I am so happy that he is back,” she said. 

Adhoc provincial coordinator Soum Chankea congratulated the families of prisoners who were released.  “Cambodian judicial officials negligently allowed these detentions to continue,” he said.

“If civil society did not pay attention, the prisoners would probably have been detained even longer.

“Who is responsible for this and is it illegal detention?”

According to documents sent to the Minister of Foreign Affairs in March and obtained by Khmer Times in July, a group of 30 prisoners were sent from Thailand to Banteay Meanchey prison between 2011 and 2012, some of whom were serving sentences of up to 20 years.

Under annual royal pardons for convicts at the end of last year, the Thai government cut the terms of 16 prisoners and agreed the other 14 could be released, but Cambodian authorities failed to carry out the orders.

Mr Keo Bandit was unable to put a figure on the number of prisoners transferred from Thai jails and serving sentences in Banteay Meanchey prison.

He said work to clarify the jail terms of the remaining prisoners was ongoing.

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