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First findings of drugs in jail probe revealed

Prey Sar prisoners stand with seized narcotics after they were charged with drug trafficking in Phnom Penh last month. Photo supplied
Prey Sar prisoners stand with seized narcotics after they were charged with drug trafficking in Phnom Penh last month. Photo supplied

First findings of drugs in jail probe revealed

A committee tasked with investigating drug trafficking within the Kingdom’s prison system had identified some issues, and solutions will follow, Interior Minister Sar Kheng said on Friday.

Speaking to reporters at the hand-over ceremony for the new General Department of Prisons Director Chan Kimseng, the minister said that 13 groups had been dispatched to investigate the country’s prisons and while a more comprehensive report would follow, he said overcrowding in the prison system had been identified as one of the causes.

“The overcrowding in prisons has caused a loophole in security checks that allows prisoners to have the opportunity to gather and have ill intentions to find ways out of prisons and continue to commit crimes,” he said. Kheng also noted that the committee was tasked with probing torture-related abuse.

According to ministry spokesman Sorn Keo, the committee – which includes officials from the Prison Department, National Police and anti-drug authorities – was focusing on the use of illegal use of cell phones by drug trafficking networks.

“Samdech [Kheng] assigned them to investigate loopholes . . . make a report and find ways to solve these problems,” he said, adding that a deadline had not been set.

Licadho technical coordinator Am Sam Ath, speaking yesterday, said it was “normal” for drug traffickers to use phones, but prisoners could not bring them in without systemic collaboration with officials.

“[Inmates] cannot bring [phones] into prisons without officials conspiring. We are concerned, and big gangs use the prisons as their head office to traffic drugs,” he said. Earlier this year authorities exposed a drug trafficking network operating out Prey Sar Prison in Phnom Penh.

As for the committee’s separate task to investigate torture, the Kingdom was obliged to have an independent body for such a purpose under the UN Convention Against Torture ratified in 2007.

However, the current body was stacked with officials from the same prisons it would ostensibly investigate and, according to Sam Ath, it had yet to make any report public since it was created in 2009.

“It is a failure that the government does not publicly announce this committee, each member and what they do,” he said.

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