King Norodom Sihamoni on Wednesday pardoned opposition party member and Kompong Cham Commune Chief Seang Chet, who had been sentenced to five years in prison on Monday, according to a royal decree.
Chet’s release came only a few hours after a breakthrough in the political stalemate between Cambodia’s two main parties and the return to the National Assembly of opposition leader Kem Sokha, along with talks on some political issues.
After a parliamentary session in the morning, Interior Minister Sar Kheng also told reporters that four human rights workers with local NGO Adhoc and Ny Chakrya, a senior official with the National Election Committee, could be released later this month.
“Today’s release includes the case of commune chief Seang Chet. Besides that, I didn’t discuss anything. It’s all talking between Kem Sokha with Samdech Hun Sen. From what I know, before the end of December, there will be solution for human rights officials and [Chakrya],” he said.
Em Kosal, a friend of Chet from the commune, said that villagers there were happy because he was a well-loved official. “They love the person, not the party,” he said.
Chet was one of several opposition officials swept up in a raft of arrests and legal action prompted by a leaked audio recording that purportedly showed Sokha had engaged in an extra-marital affair.
Ou Virak, founder of the Future Forum, a think tank, said the release was a positive sign, but said he would wait to see if the government would release the rights workers and an election official.
“If all of them are pardoned, I think that the political climate will be stable,” he said.