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Logo of Phnom Penh Post newspaper Phnom Penh Post - Prison water outage drags on

A grader levels out a road surface late last year on the outskirts of Phnom Penh, near Prey Sar prison
A grader levels out a road surface late last year on the outskirts of Phnom Penh, near Prey Sar prison where there has been a long-term water shortage. Heng Chivoan

Prison water outage drags on

As temperatures soar, Phnom Penh’s Prey Sar prison continues to suffer from a months-long water shortage, while officials yesterday said the supply had been restored in areas surrounding the facility.

An inmate told the Post that Prey Sar has now been without water for around nine months, with staff and well-connected convicts continuing to profit from the shortage by inflating prices of bottled water trucked into the prison.

“This is not only corruption, but plain extortion and exploitation of prisoners; we cannot shop around, we cannot leave,” said the inmate, who asked to remain anonymous.

Boeung Kak activist Nget Khun, who was released from the prison earlier this month, said that the profit-driven supply chain was leading to disputes among inmates.

“Sometimes the car that sells the water does not come; it makes some prisoners argue,” she said, adding that while inmates were able to wash clothes and food with water from a nearby pond, they needed to pay for clean water to drink and wash in.

While prisoners already had to pay for clean water, increased prices since a burst pipe cut the main supply last year has left some inmates now unable to afford even their basic needs.

Khot Dara, director of Prey Sar’s Correctional Centre 2, could not be reached yesterday, while Kuy Bunsorn, director-general of the Interior Ministry’s General Department of Prisons, insisted that the issue would be resolved soon.

Prey Sar “still has a lack of water because we don’t have any company to supply the water yet. The Phnom Penh Water Supply said it has not yet [finished works] in the area, but they told me they will fix the problem in May,” he said.

However, Chea Sati Poit of the Phnom Penh Water Supply Authority said that nothing was being done to restore water in the prison.

“Prey Sar prison has a different water supply that is sponsored by an NGO but I don’t know the name,” he said.

Meanwhile, Prey Sar commune chief Khat Sokhai claimed that the water supply across the commune had been almost fully restored.

“The person who said we are lacking water is just from the opposition party,” he said.

Naly Pilorge, director of local rights group Licadho, called for the issue to be “addressed urgently”.

“The extreme heat we are experiencing poses a serious health risk, especially for elderly and poor inmates who are unable to afford sufficient water on a daily basis.”

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