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'Drunk' prison chief locked up as multiple inmates escape jail

'Drunk' prison chief locked up as multiple inmates escape jail

Eight men have escaped Preah Vihear prison since the new head was appointed a month ago, but officials say monitoring has improved.

THE head of Preah Vihear's provincial jail has been imprisoned on suspicion of conspiring to release prisoners and suspects.

Deputy Prosecutor Thol Kimheung issued the detention order against prison Chief Sar Saing on Friday and charged him and two guards with conspiracy.

"I have handed over the case to the investigating judge to determine whether they conspired or simply acted carelessly," Thol Kimheung told the Post. "If the court finds them guilty of conspiracy, they will be punished. If it is simply dereliction of duty, they will be dismissed."

Thol Kimheung said seven prisoners had escaped from the prison on Thursday night after Sar Saing and his guards got drunk with them. The inmates who fled were guilty of crimes such as murder, rape and robbery.

Thol Kimheung said 12 prisoners had fled the jail so far this year due to carelessness or conspiracy by the guards.

"And we are concerned that the escaped prisoners might commit other crimes," he said, adding that he had issued arrest warrants for all 12.

Improved security

Ros Chanthy, the deputy chief of the prison, admitted prison officials had been drinking with the prisoners but blamed the escapes on carelessness rather than conspiracy.

"Now we have strictly improved our monitoring of all prisoners," Ros Chanthy told the Post. "I have made reforms with my staff."

Ros Chanthy said that as soon as he had learned the men had escaped, the guards tried to pursue them. But they failed to find them because it happened at night and the prisoners fled into the surrounding forest.

Hor Neath, the provincial coordinator of local human rights group Adhoc, said some escapees had been convicted of crimes while others were awaiting trial.

"I believe that they meant to free the prisoners," he said, adding that since Sar Saing's appointment as prison chief a month ago, eight prisoners had managed to break out of the newly built jail. One man escaped on April 13 and the group of seven on Thursday night. Four additional prisoners escaped in February.

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