The Justice Ministry has approved a list of 73 prisoners eligible to be pardoned by King Norodom Sihamoni as is traditionally done during Khmer New Year, according to officials.
“This year has 73 persons,” said Poa Bunthoeun, director of the Justice Ministry’s penal affairs department.
However, Mr Poa Bunthoeun said he was uncertain when the prisoners would be released because the list still needs to be approved by the Council of Minister’s Council of Jurists, Prime Minister Hun Sen and the King.
“I don’t know when the King and prime minister would sign it,” Mr Poa Bunthoeun said, adding that courts from around the country also submitted the final list late.
“We advised that [the list] be sent two months [before the new year],” Mr Pao Bunthoeun said.
Fewer prisoners are to receive pardons as part of the Khmer New Year celebration than last year’s holiday, according to Mr Pao Bunthoeun, but he did not know how many prisoners were pardoned last year.
Lox Sokleang, a secretary to Justice Minister Ang Vong Vathana, said that the minister had signed off the list last week, and it has already been sent to the Council of Jurists at the Council of Ministers.
Mr Lox Sokleang admitted that the list was submitted late, but said that the courts were not to blame.
“The courts sent it by the postal system; that’s why it is slow,” he said, adding that the selected prisoners will probably be released shortly after the New Year celebrations.
Council of Jurists deputy chief Heng Vong Bunchhat said Monday that he was unaware that the list of potential pardons had been submitted.
Heng Hak, director of the Interior Ministry’s prison general department, the body that submits the pardon list to the courts, said that this year’s pardon process is no different than in years past.
“Sometimes is on time and sometimes it is not,” Mr Heng Hak said. “If it is not on time, we will release in the honor of the New Year,” he said, adding that only prisoners who have served two-thirds of their prison sentences are considered for pardons.