The government has shaved nine months off the prison sentence of a former anti-drug police chief convicted of drug trafficking, according to a royal decree obtained on Thursday and dated November 11, breaking with advice from Prime Minister Hun Sen.
Touch Muysor, Phnom Penh’s one-time top drug cop, was arrested in 2005 for possessing about 8,000 methamphetamine pills and for a history of taking bribes from other drug dealers to spare them arrest. In 2011, at the age of 42, he was sentenced to 12 years in prison.
During November’s Water Festival, Mr. Muysor was one of 18 convicts to have their sentences reduced by nine months. Another 45 convicts had their prison sentences reduced by six months, including disgraced former Phnom Penh Municipal Court director Ang Mealaktei.
The government regularly arranges the early release and pardon of prisoners during national holidays like the festival and the king’s birthday. The release of some people convicted for sexual abuse and other serious crimes has raised concerns.
Mr. Muysor’s early release flies in the face of general advice from the prime minister regarding drug offenses.
“His Excellency Justice Minister should thoroughly consider not releasing [early] many of those who are imprisoned over robbery and drug-trafficking convictions because they come out and rob again and again in many places,” Mr. Hun Sen said in 2015.
Contacted on Thursday, the spokesman for the Interior Ministry’s general prisons department, Keo San, insisted that Mr. Muysor’s early release would not break with the prime minister’s advice because he was carefully vetted by a municipal and national committee, the latter headed by Justice Minister Ang Vong Vathana.
“Normally, when he meets the criteria, such as correcting himself well, he has his sentence reduced,” he said.
Mr. San added that stricter scrutiny had reduced the number of early releases from about 500 in years past to roughly 100 last year.
Mr. Mealaktei, the former court director, was arrested in August 2015 and convicted the following February for personal use of an SUV confiscated from a drug dealer. He was handed a three-year jail sentence, though the court ordered him to serve only two years.