2004.10.26 New Cambodian king to pardon prisoners

PHNOM PENH, Cambodia (AP) - Cambodia's new king will grant royal pardons to scores of prisoners at his coronation this week as one of his first official acts after ascending the throne, an official said Monday.

The Justice Ministry is drawing up a list of convicts whose names will be handed to the palace to decide if they will be pardoned or have their sentences reduced when Norodom Sihamoni officially becomes Cambodia's first new monarch in 60 years on Friday.

"As of now, more than 80 names have been compiled already," said Long Phol, a deputy justice minister. "We're still waiting for more names from the provinces."

He declined to say what the final number of pardons would be or what crimes they would involve.

Under Cambodia's constitution, the monarch can grant a certain number of royal pardons each year and Sihamoni's father, Norodom Sihanouk, did so occasionally. Granting such pardons is generally considered to be an expression of good faith and generosity by the monarch.

Sihamoni, 51, was chosen by a nine-member panel on Oct. 14 to succeed his father, Norodom Sihanouk, 81, who abdicated earlier this month due to poor health. The day after his appointment, Sihamoni asked Prime Minister Hun Sen to prepare a list of a "considerable" number of prisoners for him to pardon or to grant reduced sentences.

Sihamoni will "issue a royal statement ordering the release of a number of prisoners" on Friday evening, according to a copy of the coronation programme obtained by The Associated Press.

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