INMATES at one of the country’s largest prisons have improved access to clean water following the installation of a rainwater harvesting system, authorities have said.
The new system at Siem Reap Prison, the Kingdom’s third largest with roughly 1,300 inmates, was introduced as part of a prison reform effort by the Cambodian government and the Office of the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR).
“In some provincial prisons, insufficient and unclean water are major issues facing inmates,” said Heng Hak, director of prisons at the Ministry of Interior. “I hope that this innovative project … will help improve prisoners’ living conditions.”
Officials have credited the OHCHR-Cambodia prison reform programme with nearly doubling inmates’ daily food rations, from the equivalent of US$0.37 to $0.70 in each of the country’s 24 prisons.
“Siem Reap’s prison is one of the country’s largest,” said Mao Yin, provincial coordinator with rights group Adhoc. “Severe overcrowding, poor hygiene and unsafe drinking water from a lack of sanitation are the most critical issues that require our attention.”
The OHCHR-Cambodia collaboration has allowed UN officials to visit prisons across the country to gather confidential information from prisoners as part of an effort to ensure standards for how inmates are treated.
“It’s about human rights monitoring and at the same time working with the General Department of Prisons (GDP) to tackle the root causes of problems,” said Marie-Dominique Parent, the OHCHR’s officer in charge of the programme.
An OHCHR report released late last year praised its collaboration with the GDP, while noting that the prisons bureau suffered from a lack of funding that made it difficult to improve inmate conditions.
“The GDP is faced with a growing prison population, without a corresponding increase in the prison budget,” the report stated. Last month, a 16-year-old inmate died in Takhmao prison while another 20 fell seriously ill after a suspected outbreak of cholera.