Interior Minister Sar Kheng said on Monday the government must prioritise cleaning up the backlog of criminal court cases in Cambodia with a focus on those already in prison.
He said he was concerned the issue of prison overcrowding cannot be solved until the backlog of legal files is cleared. He said he is not in a rush to tackle cases of suspects on bail.
The comments came at a ceremony introducing the new General Department of Prisons director at the Interior Ministry.
Sar Kheng said the issue of prison overcrowding is complicated, especially for drug offences. He said Minister of Justice Koeut Rith should consider rooting out the cause behind too many prisoners.
“Can clearing old cases decrease the number of people in prisons? The answer is not really because there are cases of suspects on bail. It does not help a lot.
“I reminded Rith several days ago to consider the cases of people in prisons first before considering those on bail,” said Sar Kheng.
He said he believes Rith will be able to tackle the issue successfully.
“If the prisons are suddenly full, it will be very complicated to solve. It is unavoidable to build more prisons. Meanwhile, there are 40,000 prisoners among 16 million people in Cambodia.
“If we build more prisons the number will increase to 50,000 or 60,000 people. It means that there are many people committing offences. People will say the police are incapable,” Sar Kheng said.
In May, the Ministry of Justice put forward a plan to tackle backlogged cases, reduce prison overcrowding and strengthen the capacity of the judiciary.
Ministry spokesman Chin Malin told The Post on Monday it is about tackling the issue of backlogged cases, which means they will tackle all cases regardless of whether the people are in prison or out on bail.
“The goal is to solve all problems. If backlogged cases decrease, especially cases with suspects in prison, the issue of prison overcrowding can be solved too.
“What [Sar Kheng] has mentioned is in the line with the work we are doing and we will put more effort into doing it,” he said.