Sam Rainsy Party lawmakers and the Khmer Front Party on Monday criticized the government for not recommending any political prisoners for pardons from King Norodom Sihamoni during his coronation ceremony.
The politicians criticized the Ministry of Justice and the Ministry of Interior for recommending only what they called “normal criminals” rather than victims of what they believed was politically-motivated persecution. Both ministries compiled the list of 88 prisoners who received reduced sentences or pardons from the King.
“Our party is very disappointed to see that the list of prisoners who received reduced prison terms, or were released, were only robbers, human traffickers and rapists,” Khmer Front Party Secretary-General Mao Samoeun wrote in a statement Monday. “We did not see any release of political prisoners who opposed [Prime Minister] Hun Sen.”
Opposition lawmaker Chrea Sochenda also said political prisoners should have been released.
He echoed a statement by six opposition lawmakers last week urging the release of five men accused of belonging to the outlawed Cambodian Freedom Fighters and convicted over a November 2000 attack in Phnom Penh.
Since the attack, some have questioned whether the government used the prosecution of alleged-CFF members to punish political opponents.
“CFF [members] should be released because they are innocent, rather than releasing normal criminals,” Chrea Sochenda said.
Tuot Lux, secretary of state at the Ministry of Justice, defended the recommendations, saying, “According to our Constitution, there are no political prisoners.”
The list of prisoners was compiled by the director of Prey Sar prison, according to whether he thought the prisoners had reformed their ways, Tuot Lux said. All must serve at least two-thirds of their sentence, he added.
Ministry of Interior Prison Department Director Samkol Sokhan defended the list.
“We have complied with the law,” he said.