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Logo of Phnom Penh Post newspaper Phnom Penh Post - Officials to investigate prison break

Officials to investigate prison break

Authorities to launch investigations into a breakout that saw two

convicted criminals fashion a replica jail key and escape from a

recently built prison in Preah Vihear province.

CROWDED HOUSE

The Kingdom's provincial prisons have long been notorious for overcrowding and poor conditions. A study of 18 prisons conducted by local rights group Licadho found that the jails' combined population rose from 3,282 prisoners in 1999 to 9,315 in April 2008.

THE governor of Preah Vihear province has ordered the provincial court prosecutor and prison officials to open investigations into the escape of four men on Friday from the province's new prison.

Governor Preap Tann told the Post Monday that the error lay squarely on the shoulders of prison officials.

"This prison was constructed in late 2008, and it is a strong building," he said.  "I will not excuse any prison officials if they are found to have made a mistake. I have told the court prosecutor to issue arrest warrants for these criminals and return them to jail."

The four men broke out of the cell they were sharing around midnight Friday, said prison chief Krouch Bundil. He said it appeared they had fashioned a replica key from iron sourced from their cell and used it to unlock the door.

Krouch Bundil said two of the men were convicted criminals, while the other two were in pretrial detention. He named the four as Yoeun Chhoeun, who was convicted of raping his daughter; Sao Sovanna, convicted of robbery; Bun Boeun, is charged with murder; and Sor Toth, who is charged with raping an 18-year-old woman and killing another woman who tried to help the victim.

Given the slip

Ros Chanthy, the chief guard at the prison, said the escape was not his fault, blaming three prison wardens who handled the keys, saying they had been careless in their actions.

Krouch Bundil said a series of errors had led to the breakout.

"There were three errors made: My men didn't check the prisoners in their cell; my men didn't check their keys; and the criminals unlocked their door and fled," he said.

"I have talked with the provincial governor to recommend a timetable to improve procedures for overseeing cells and to punish prison officials for their carelessness," he said, adding that photographs of the four escapees had been sent to district police.

However, Krouch Bundil said he was not optimistic the men would be caught since two of them were repeat offenders.

Provincial prosecutor Keo Shim said Monday that he sent a formal letter to the Ministry of Justice's prosecutor general and summoned the three prison guards in charge of the keys, as well as other involved parties, to explain themselves. He said procedures had not been followed and confirmed that arrest warrants had now been issued for the four men.

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