Royal Pardon for Police Chief Convicted of Drug Bribes

Disgraced former Banteay Meanchey provincial police chief Hun Hean, who was sentenced to four years in prison in 2011 on four counts of taking bribes from drug dealers, has received an early release from jail courtesy of a royal pardon. He left Phnom Penh’s Prey Sar prison a free man last month.

Hun Hean’s name appeared among 116 other prisoners from around the country who were also granted pardons in a sub-decree signed by King Norodom Sihamoni prior to the King’s birthday celebrations on May 11.

Traditionally, the King releases prisoners as an act of benevolence on his birthday, after a list of inmates’ names has been sent to him by the government.

“Hun Hean was detained from January 14, 2011 on bribery charges and he was sentenced by the Banteay Meanchey provincial court to four years in jail on No­vember 15, 2011,” states the sub-decree, which was published in the May 31 issue of the government’s Royal Gazette.

Hun Hean was convicted by the Banteay Meanchey Provincial Court in November 2011 for taking kickbacks both from suspected drug dealers and law enforcement officers for a number of years. During his trial, he confessed to taking bribes from drug dealers on two occasions but claimed not to have known the origin of the wads of money he was being handed by his own subordinates.

Shortly after Hun Hean—a former police brigadier general—was arrested, authorities proceeded to arrest Lieutenant General Moek Dara, the former secretary-general of the National Authority for Combating Drugs, who was sentenced to life in jail in January 2012 on multiple charg­es of drug trafficking and bribery.

Much of Hun Hean’s testimony in court was used as evidence in the conviction of Moek Dara.

The court convicted Hun Hean and sentenced him to four years in prison including time served since his arrest. He was also fined $320,000, twice the amount he was believed to have taken in drug dealer bribes. His conviction and sentence were then upheld by the Appeal Court in March.

Hun Hean could not be reached for comment Monday.

Prey Sar prison director Srun Leang and Kuy Bunsorn, director-general of the Interior Ministry’s general department of prisons, also confirmed Hun Hean’s early release as part of the King’s birthday celebrations from May 13 to 15.

“He was released from prison during the King’s birthday,” Mr. Leang said.

Hun Hean’s lawyer, Chea Dara, said his client had strategized his court battle based on the aim of receiving a royal pardon. To that end, Hun Hean had decided to forswear his final right to appeal to the Supreme Court in hopes of winning the royal pardon.

“We appealed for a pardon from the King because my client did not commit the crime, and if we appealed to the Supreme Court, we would have to wait for a long time,” he said, explaining that if an appeal were in process, he would not have been eligible for a pardon.

Justice Ministry spokesman Sam Pracheameanith said he could not recall Hun Hean’s high-profile case and declined to comment further on the pardoning of prisoners.

At the time of Hun Hean’s conviction, local rights groups criticized what they considered a light sentence for such serious crimes by a senior law enforcement officer, and they suggested that the court should have expanded the investigation to go after both the police subordinates who paid the bribes up to Hun Hean and find out whether Hun Hean also passed any of the money on to his superiors.

Chheng Samphors, a senior monitor for rights groups Licadho, said Monday that the ex-police chief should not have been pardoned.

“He should be imprisoned for a long time because he was in­volved with corruptions and drugs,” he said.

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