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Logo of Phnom Penh Post newspaper Phnom Penh Post - Prison law set for approval

Prison law set for approval

111018_03

Photo by: Photo Supplied

Prisoners shackled to a stationary bar at a provincial prison in Cambodia in 2010.

A draft law intended to regulate the Kingdom’s overburdened prison system will be approved by the National Assembly late next week, a senior official said yesterday.

Senior CPP lawmaker Cheam Yeap told the Post that the draft prison law had been debated last week and Prime Minister Hun Sen had sent a letter to the National Assembly requesting that it be approved “as soon as possible”.

Rights workers yesterday expressed support for articles in the draft law that prohibited torture and cruel treatment in jails and specified healthcare for pregnant women, mothers and children living in prison. However, they said that the draft also included worrying provisions regarding the use of prison labour.

Jeff Vize, prison consultant for rights group Licadho, said via email that the draft law included an article that appeared to authorise prisons to contract inmate labour out to “any organisation or individual”, which clearly included private firms.

“It opens the door to private companies exploiting a captive labour force with virtually no rights or voice,” he said, adding that the use of prison labour for private industry could also dissuade international businesses from sourcing goods from Cambodia.

“Positive aspects of the law include a prohibition on torture, cruel treatment and certain punishments, along with a provision making it a crime for prison staff to unlawfully refuse to release a prisoner or to extend a prisoner’s sentence,” Vize added.

Meanwhile, senior Adhoc investigator Chan Soveth said that the draft law included encouraging provisions for maternal and child care, but the group was concerned about inmates being exploited through prison “work programs”.

However, Cheam Yeap said that under the draft law, prisoners could participate in “work programs” to improve their technical skills.

“Prison officials will be punished by the law if they are found to be using torture to force prisoners into the worst labour,” he said.

According to a report released by Licadho earlier this year, Cambodia’s prisons are “bursting at the seams”, with at least 12 facilities out of 18 monitored by the organisation at or near double their intended capacity.

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