In a long-running Water Festival tradition, King Norodom Sihamoni has pardoned more than 100 inmates across the country and reduced the prison sentences of several hundred more.
“One-hundred-two of the 680 prisoners were pardoned and the rest had their sentences reduced,” Justice Ministry spokesman Chin Malin said on Tuesday, adding that the decision was formalized in a royal decree signed by the king on Friday.
Mr. Malin said those pardoned should have been set free on Monday and that the others still had some time left to serve. But he did not have a list of the prisoners on hand and said he could not recall if any of them were foreigners, or whether any had been convicted of serious crimes.
Kheang Lay, head of education and corrections at the Interior Ministry’s general department of prisons, confirmed that all 102 pardoned prisoners had been released.
“All the prisons in the provinces and in Phnom Penh released those prisoners on Monday,” he said.
Like Mr. Malin, however, Mr. Lay said he could provide no further details because he was on vacation.
Officials at the Justice Ministry either could not be reached or declined to comment.
Brigadier General Un Sarath, deputy director of Prey Sar prison’s Correctional Center 1 in Phnom Penh, said 11 inmates were released from the facility on Monday as part of the royal decree.
“They had good behavior and they respected the prison rules,” he said, declining to elaborate on their crimes.
Kandal Provincial Prison director Chab Sineang said seven inmates from his facility were released on Monday and another 35 had their sentences reduced.
Am Sam Ath, technical coordinator for rights group Licadho, said that the director of each prison is allowed to choose whom to reward.
But he said inmates who were overlooked in the process frequently complained that pardoned prisoners paid their way out of jail.
“In general, the people who stay in prison complain that they meet the same criteria as [those pardoned] but are not selected because they do not have money like them,” he said. “I would like to see a transparent committee evaluate the prisoners in order to avoid corruption.”
Government officials have denied claims of corruption inside the country’s prisons.