At the behest of Prime Minister Hun Sen, prisons across the country Sunday marked International Women’s Day by releasing a total of 22 female inmates who are either pregnant or had young children with them in jail, including a woman convicted of attempted murder over an acid attack.
Kim Santepheap, spokesman for the Justice Ministry, said after the release of seven of the women from Prey Sar prison’s Correctional Center 2 in Phnom Penh that the 22 were selected for pardons after a speech by Mr. Hun Sen last month.
“We released them [today] in order to link it to International Women’s Day,” Mr. Santepheap said.
The spokesman added that besides those at Prey Sar, women were released from provincial prisons in Banteay Meanchey, Battambang, Preah Sihanouk, Siem Reap, Koh Kong and Oddar Meanchey.
According to a police officer who spoke at a ceremony at Prey Sar, the seven women were convicted of either drug trafficking, theft with aggravated circumstances or attempted murder.
The Phnom Penh Municipal Court sentenced one of the women, Khoen Malin, 34, to 14 years in prison in 2011 for attempted murder, said the officer, who did not identify himself during his speech.
Ms. Malin’s nephew, Men Dararith, 22, said the court convicted his aunt of hiring a third party to throw acid on another woman. He added that when Ms. Malin was convicted, she had a 1-month-old baby who was placed in prison with her.
After the ceremony, Ms. Malin said she was overjoyed about her early release.
“I promise to stop committing crimes because I don’t want to have to leave my family like this again,” she said. “I will have a new life soon.”
During a speech Sunday to commemorate Women’s Day, Mr. Hun Sen said he had been inspired to grant the women leniency by a recent report from rights group Licadho that highlighted dire conditions for small children imprisoned with their mothers. However, the prime minister emphasized that the release should not encourage women to start committing crimes.
“We would like to confirm that we don’t want to encourage women with children and pregnant woman to commit illegal acts,” he said. “I would like to appeal to women: Please don’t commit illegal acts.”
(Additional reporting by Chhorn Chansy)