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Logo of Phnom Penh Post newspaper Phnom Penh Post - Inmates ‘caged’ in abandoned cinema turned into prison

Inmates ‘caged’ in abandoned cinema turned into prison

Inmates ‘caged’ in abandoned cinema turned into prison

Pailin provincial authorities have converted an abandoned movie theatre in Pailin city into a temporary prison to house inmates following the opening of a provincial court earlier this year, a prison official said yesterday.

Nou Thoeung, director of the temporary prison in Pailin, said yesterday that a provincial court was created on January 24 but a jail had not yet been built, so officials had begun using the old theatre as a temporary prison in April.

“It is difficult to control, but we have no choice. We have to use the theatre as a temporary prison,” he said, adding that the Ministry of Interior planned to construct a new provincial prison early next year.

Nou Thoeung said that there were currently 116 prisoners being detained at the temporary facility, including 24 women and 23 children of prisoners.

As of May 15 there were 15,217 prisoners housed in correctional centres, municipal and provincial prisons in the Kingdom, including 5,728 prisoners in pre-trial detention, according to data from the Ministry of Interior’s general department of prisons.

The most humane solution ... would be  to close the prison

Jeff Vize, prison researcher for rights group Licadho, said yesterday that the old theatre was an “inappropriate” place in which to house inmates and pre-trial detainees.
“Conditions are among the worst we’ve seen, in the sense that this facility is simply not meant to be a prison,” Vize said via email.

“The entire prison is one large room – the main hall of a former movie theatre. There are no means to separate male and female inmates, so the male inmates are housed in a large cage. The men use buckets as toilets. There is no place for inmates to have outdoor recreation time. There are no activities.”

Vize said that construction of a new prison in Pailin could take years.

“The most humane solution, in terms of respecting the prisoners’ basic human rights, would be to close the prison and house these individuals in Battambang until a proper prison is built in Pailin,” he added.

“A separate problem is that there are very few lawyers in Pailin, and virtually no legal aid or NGO lawyers. As a result, most prisoners do not have lawyers. That has started to change now that NGOs are learning about the situation, but the situation is still bad.”

Officials from the general department of prisons at the Ministry of Interior could not be reached for comment yesterday.

However, Liv Mauv, deputy general director of the general department of prisons, denied last week that the theatre was being used as a prison and said that inmates from the province were being detained in Battambang provincial prison.

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