Rights Groups Seek Pardon for 6 Kampot Villagers

Human rights workers have appealed to King Norodom Siha­moni to extend his recent pardon of for­mer Kampot Governor Puth Chan­darith to six villagers jailed over the same incident.

The Kampot Provincial Court im­prisoned the six in December 2006 for land grabbing and clearing state forested land in Chhuk district. Puth Chandarith was also convicted on the same charges, along with a corruption charge, but was pardoned by King Sihamoni on Jan 18.

“If there is a royal decree to grant a pardon for Puth Chandarith, why not for the jailed villagers?” Cam­bodia Center for Human Rights in­vestigator Chhim Savuth asked Tuesday.

Chhim Savuth said the government should seek a request to pardon the men.

“Ex-governor Puth Chandarith has been released because of the King’s pardon, so those villagers, who just had a small piece of land for their houses, must be given the King’s pardon,” Adhoc provincial coordinator Try Chhuon said.

“Hopefully, the pardon will be made for poor people and not only the rich and powerful people.”

Kampot prison Director Pouch Bunnarith confirmed that Puth Chandarith has been released but the six men were still in prison.

“I am hopeful that they will re­ceive the King’s pardon as well,” Pouch Bunnarith said of the six men, but declined to elaborate.

National Assembly First Vice President Nguon Nhel said Tues­day that only King Sihamoni could decide whether or not to grant pardons. Nguon Nhel added that, in general, high-ranking officials should be prosecuted alone for crimes they’ve committed and not the poor villagers who may have been misled by those officials.

Puth Thipan, 37, the wife of Soy Sam Heng, one of the convicted men sentenced to six years in pri­son, appealed to Prime Minister Hun Sen and the King to con­sider granting a pardon for her husband and the other “innocent” men.

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