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Prey Sar director suspended

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A prison guard looks through a window while a group of Buddhist monks clean up outside a pagoda that stands next to Prey Say prison last month.

Prey Sar prison’s chief has been suspended from his position along with four other staff in connection with “irregularities” at the facility, officials at the Ministry of Interior said yesterday.

Kuy Bunson, director-general of the Interior Ministry’s prison department, said yesterday that Prey Sar prison director Mong Kim Heng and four others had been temporarily suspended after being brought in for questioning two weeks ago about “irregularities” at the prison.

“I suspended the five in order to be transparent in managing the prison,” he said, adding that Mong Kim Heng had been removed last month.

Liv Mov, deputy director of the prison department, said that Mong Kim Heng and the four others, who he did not name, had made some “mistakes”, but declined to elaborate.

“I cannot say clearly because it is under police investigation,” he said.

Ministry of Interior spokesman Khieu Sopheak said that Mong Kim Heng had been transferred to work at the prison department at the Ministry of Interior.

Mong Kim Heng could not be reached for comment yesterday.

Officials also said yesterday that two other prison officials had been removed from their positions on Wednesday: Phean Sophorn, director of Banteay Meanchey prison, and Srey Vatha, who works in Phnom Penh prisons.

Am Sam Ath, senior investigator for the rights group Licadho, welcomed the actions.

“I ask for more serious investigations into any official who committed an offence, and that he be brought to court and condemned according to the law,” he said.

Meanwhile, NGOs expressed concern over the health of prisoners in Preah Sihanouk province following the death of a 20-year-old inmate, who had been serving time for a robbery conviction, on July 23.

Se Raksmey, prison investigator for Licadho, said yesterday that it was not uncommon for a “three metre-by-three-metre room to contain 50 prisoners, so they have to sleep on their sides to be comfortable”.

He said overcrowding made prisoners vulnerable to disease and infection and urged the prison department to build more detention rooms.

Kuy Bunson said prison overcrowding was a country-wide issue, but not unique to Cambodia.

“Unless there is construction of more prisons, it cannot be reduced. It is included in enforcing the law,” he added.

In a report released earlier this month, Licadho said Cambodia’s prison population was in the midst of an “unprecedented boom”, and said even new prisons could not contain the growth.

Licadho said the prison population increased 12.6 percent between March last year and the end of April this year, from 13,325 prisoners to 15,001.

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