Two disgraced officials, including former Phnom Penh Municipal Court president Ang Maltey, and a paedophile were among the prisoners granted a six-month sentence reduction during this year’s Water Festival.
The latest round of royally-decreed leniency also included unconditional pardons for six people, including a murderer and rapist, according to the November Royal Book.
Signed by King Nordom Sihamoni, the decrees state that 45 prisoners will get half a year off their time, including Maltey and former Phnom Penh police anti-drug chief Touch Muysor.
Muysor was sentenced to 13 years in prison in 2009 for bribery and possessing drugs. Maltey, meanwhile, was sentenced in February to serve 24 months of a three-year sentence for making personal use of an SUV confiscated from a convicted drug dealer.
The cut will see the former top judge, who was also accused of taking a hefty bribe, be eligible for release next month.
French national Michel Roger Blanchard, arrested in 2008, will also get six months off his 17-year sentence for child sex charges, handed down in 2010. Other recipients of the cut included prisoners convicted of murder, rape, drug possession and sex trafficking. Their sentences ranged from two to 15 years.
Meanwhile, six prisoners also walked out of jail with pardons, among them Herm Meak, arrested in 2007 and sentenced to 15 years for rape, and Von Phors, arrested in 2008 and sentenced to 10 years for murder.
Suggestions for pardons and sentence reductions are put forward by prison officials and assessed by the interior and justice ministries.
Hun Sen last year slammed officials for letting out serious offenders, and critics have long accused the practice of being underpinned by bribery.
Reached yesterday, spokesman and deputy director of the Ministry of Interior’s General Prisons Department Nut Vesna conceded there had been instances where prisoners had paid to get their names on the list. However, he defended the process, which he said was “thorough”.
“We checked whether those prisoners really did change their behaviour and have never caused any problems in prison,” he said.
Am Sam Ath, technical coordinator for the rights group Licadho, which monitors prisons, said the premier’s criticism of the pardons process last year had brought some improvement.
“Lately, we see the number of prisoners who are pardoned has declined dramatically,” he said, noting the drop from hundreds of pardons to handfuls.
Transparency International executive director Preap Kol, however, said that a lack of transparency surrounding grants of clemency meant the process was open to abuse.
Regarding Maltey, perhaps one of the most high-profile corruption-related scalps in recent years, Kol said the shortening of his already partially suspended sentence sent the “wrong message” to the public.
“In most democratic countries around the world, they consider corruption as one the most serious crimes, especially when committed by high-profile public officials or judges,” Kol said.
“Cambodia should also treat such corruption cases as a serious crime.”
ADDITIONAL REPORTING SHAUN TURTON