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Government to address prison issues

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Prisoners sit at Prey Sar prison. The notorious prison houses more than 6,000 inmates, an Interior Minister official said last year. Photo supplied

Government to address prison issues

Prime Minister Hun Sen will allow the ministries of Interior and Justice, and relevant institutions to convene with the aim of solving the problem of prison overcrowding.

Interior Minister Sar Kheng requested the meeting due to the rapid increase in convicted felons, according to Chin Malin, the Ministry of Justice spokesman.

The inter-ministerial gathering will be led by Sar Kheng, but its date and scope have not been decided.

The Kingdom’s prisons have become crowded since the government launched a two-phase campaign to crack down on drug-related crimes. The majority of prisoners are convicted for such crimes.

“We do not know yet how to do it until we have a meeting and discussion before we set mechanisms [into place] and [put them into] practice. Normally, at the end of a meeting, we reach solutions for confronting issues,” Malin said.

On Tuesday, Fresh News reported Malin as saying “according to Sar Kheng’s request, issued on November 8, Cambodia’s prisons are very crowded nationwide now.

“On September 30, there were 31,008 prisoners. Among them, 22,295 (71.9 per cent) were imprisoned under court procedures. There are prisoners who were detained without official court verdicts even after the court finished all the procedures.”

Sar Kheng reported to Hun Sen that these are challenging issues involved in controlling and managing the prison population and possibly to reduce punishments or pardon criminals, said Fresh News.

“Samdech Sar Kheng confirmed that in order to solve these challenges, as well as to provide peace, security and well-being for prisoners, especially to follow national and international standards, I asked for a policy from the prime minister.

“Please allow me to lead an inter-ministerial meeting, which will include the Ministry of Interior, Ministry of Justice, Heads of Phnom Penh Municipal Court and provincial courts, prosecutors of Phnom Penh Municipal Court and provincial courts, aiming at reviewing and finding suitable solutions in pushing the courts to speed up the solving of criminal cases, so that trials can be [conducted] faster,” he added.

Ministry of Interior spokesman Khieu Sopheak could not be reached for comment on Monday.

Soeung Sen Karuna, the spokesman for human rights group Adhoc, said the institutions should have worked together to find ways to solve the issue of overcrowded prisons a long time ago without disturbing the prime minister.

He said overcrowding was a result of the rapid increase of drug addicts. “The authorities should check to see if prisoners can be released or not. Some people committed minor crimes or have no previous convictions. They should be serving the community [instead of being in jail]."

“Others have obeyed the rules and changed their behaviour. The authorities should think about that,” he added.

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