King Norodom Sihanouk has forwarded to the two prime ministers requests for amnesties for Sam Rainsy’s former security chief and two other men convicted last year in the murder of Second Prime Minister Hun Sen’s brother-in-law.
In a letter dated May 11, the King said he was forwarding three requests for amnesties, including one by Thomas Hammarberg, the UN secretary-general’s special representative for human rights in Cambodia.
Hammarberg recently wrote a two-and-a-half-page letter asking that amnesties be granted for Srun Von Vannak, Prum Mean Rith and Sos Kasem primarily for humanitarian reasons. Prum Mean Rith and Sos Kasem are both said to be ill.
Amnesty requests by Prum Mean Rith and the parents of Vannak, Rainsy’s former bodyguard, also were forwarded. The King typically grants amnesties only after a request by the prime ministers.
All three men have claimed they were forced into making false confessions. Hammarberg’s letter also cites procedural errors in their cases, a rights worker said Thursday. Their sentences ranged from 10 to 15 years each.
Hun Sen said in early January that he would seek a pardon for Vannak. The pardon deal came after Hun Sen and opposition figure Sam Rainsy met in December for the first time in nearly three years. But since then, tensions between the two have increased, and in Hun Sen’s latest letter to Sam Rainsy, he stated that a pardon request for Vannak would come only after the appeals court had made a decision.
Om Yentieng, a Hun Sen adviser, said Thursday the cases must be “finished” before amnesties can be requested. A rights worker, however, said Thursday there is precedent for granting amnesties before all appeals have run their course.
Another appeals court hearing is scheduled for next week, but it could be months before the case, with a possible appeal to the Supreme Court, is resolved, the rights worker noted.
“It could easily take a half-year,” the rights worker said. “We are requesting a pardon for all three immediately, noting that two prisoners are ill.”
Amnesty International also has demanded Vannak’s immediate release from jail. (Additional reporting by Khuy Sokhoeun)