Cambodia pardons 400 lucky prisoners in royal funeral ritual

Featured South East Asia - January 31st, 2013
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More than 400 prisoners will be released on Monday to mark the funeral of Norodom Sihanouk, the revered former king of Cambodia, officials said.

King Norodom Sihamoni, Sihanouk’s son, has signed a royal decree to pardon 412 prisoners who will be released on the day of his father’s cremation.

“This is a special pardon to mark the royal funeral. It is the royal tradition to pardon prisoners during such a funeral for a king,” justice ministry spokesman Sam Pracheameanith told AFP.

In a separate decree, Sihamoni cut by six months the sentence of Veera Somkwamkid, a former leader of Thailand’s “Yellow Shirt” royalist movement who was convicted of espionage in 2011 in a disputed border area. Veera’s secretary Ratree Pippattanapaibul, who was jailed for six years on the same charges, will meanwhile be released Friday.

Sihanouk, who died of a heart attack in Beijing on October, will be cremated on Monday following a lavish funeral procession. The beloved former monarch abdicated in 2004 after leading Cambodia to independence from the French.

The prisoners will be released at the cremation site where they will receive gifts from King Sihamoni and the Queen Mother.