More than 900 prisoners in Siem Reap can now spend at least two hours daily reading books in a library inaugurated inside Siem Reap Provincial Prison on Tuesday, according to the Coordinator of the Prison Library project, Sam Leang Eng.
“Prisoners have a lot of time for reading, but the problem is they have nothing to read” he said.
He told Insider that the library was largely an initiative of Sipar, a French NGO that works toward the reconstruction of Cambodia through education of the youth, and is a partner of the Ministry of Education , Youth and Sports.
Sipar’s goal is to fight illiteracy and poverty through the pleasure of reading, Sam Leang Eng said.
“Some people asked why we constructed a library inside the prison, and not in a school. We would like to see everyone reads books everywhere, not only in school,” he said, adding that Sipar has already constructed many libraries in schools and hospitals.
He said the Siem Reap Prison Library was constructed in 2013 under a budget from Agence Française de Développement (AFD), costing around $12, 000, with a size of 9mx11m, and containing more than 3,000 books focusing on “life skills” and various business sectors.
“The reader will definitely gain a lot of knowledge frombooks about agricultural skills, electronics skills and sewing skills. Those books consist of short texts along with many pictures that are easy to understand and follow-up,” Sam Leang Eng said.
He and his team have also recently tried to find some books related to the law.
“Now we really need law books to place inside the prison library. The more they read about law, the more they gain knowledge and I believe they would not let themselves be in the jail again.”
Sam Leang Eng said that the Development of Library services will be implemented in the 26 prisons in Cambodia , and there are now 21 libraries open for inmates.
He added that the prison library project was funded firstly by the European Union and implemented by Sipar in partnership with the General Department of Prisons over a period of three years, starting from January 2012 to December 2014, with a total cost of around $500, 000.