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Five convicts on lam after R’kiri jailbreak

Five inmates awaiting trial in Ratanakkiri province for crimes ranging from robbery to murder remained on the loose yesterday evening after an early-morning prison break.

During an interrogation of the one escapee caught by prison officials, authorities were told the six men hid two pieces of jagged steel in their shoes, slowly filing down the bars to their cell over the course of an undetermined number of nights, said provincial deputy prosecutor Ros Saram.

“They used a sawlike piece of metal to grind the bars little by little between the hours of 10pm and 3am,” Saram said. The six worked and slept in shifts and took turns hiding the pieces in their shoes, he added.

Escaped prisoners still on the lam include Nov Sokna, 48, charged with murder; Vann Vichet, charged with sexual assault of a minor; Kim Boran, charged with drug trafficking; and Phern Ton and Hum Khau, each charged with robbery, Saram said.

Phai Vet, who is charged with sexual assault, escaped with the other five, but guards caught and re-arrested him, Saram added. Penalties for breaking out of prison range from an additional year to a life sentence.

A jailbreak in Battambang last year sparked a Ministry of Interior investigation into possible staff complicity. In that case, five inmates – three of whom were serving time for murder – broke out of Battambang’s provincial prison after staff there moved them to a low-security room reserved for the sick.

Earlier that year, a convict escaped a hospital unit in Preah Sihanouk Provincial Prison, sneaking by two guards as they slept.

“It shows that the prison guards are careless,” Chhay Thy, provincial coordinator for rights group Adhoc, said of yesterday’s escape. “Most of the escaped inmates were on trial for serious crimes; the jailbreak could cause panic and fear among nearby residents.”

Adhoc will investigate the escape, Thy said.

Non Ngen, Ratanakkiri’s provincial prison chief, could not reach for comment yesterday.

Police are still searching for the prisoners, said Pen Dyna, a Ratanakkiri deputy provincial police chief.

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