On February 5th, two Cambodian opposition leaders, Sam Rainsy and Cheam Channy, were pardoned by King Norodom Sihamoni. The pardons came at the request of Prime Minister Hun Sen. On February 6th, Cheam Channy was released from prison.
Mr. Rainsy, founder of the Sam Rainsy Party, had been convicted in absentia in December 2005 on charges of criminal defamation, while Cheam Channy was serving a seven-year prison sentence on charges that he formed an illegal armed group. Both charges were widely seen as politically-motivated efforts to weaken Cambodia’s democratic opposition.
Brittis Edman, a researcher with Amnesty International, an independent human rights group, said, "We hope this marks an end to the practice of using politically motivated trials to silence political dissent."
Kong Korm, acting head of the Sam Rainsy party said, "National reconciliation is going quickly because the Cambodian leaders know how to resolve national problems." The release of the party leader, says Mr. Korm, "is a very important step."
The United States agrees that the Cambodian government has taken an important step in the right direction by requesting pardons for Sam Rainsy and Cheam Channy. The U.S., says State Department spokesman Sean McCormack, welcomes the decision to pardon the two opposition leaders:
"We hope that the King's decision represents movement toward strengthened democracy in Cambodia. We look forward to the return of Sam Rainsy and the full resumption of the role of the opposition in the political dialogue of Cambodia."
The U.S. looks forward, says State Department spokesman McCormack, "to the return of Sam Rainsy and the full resumption of the role of the opposition in the political dialogue of Cambodia."
The preceding was an editorial reflecting the views of the United States Government.