I NTERIOR Minister You Hockry said he has taken action in the wake of criticism
from local NGOs and international human rights organizations over cramped and
inhumane living conditions in Phnom Penh's prisons.
Hockry said temporary
measures have been taken to relieve overcrowding and that 54 prisoners from PJ
prison have been shifted to Prey Sar prison and to the T5 prison in Kompong
Hockry told the Post there are major plans to expand prison
facilities at Prey Sar and to provide a separate prison for women. He also said
there were plans to provide medical and sports facilities and vocational
training for prisoners.
He said: "The expanded prison in Prey Sar will
relieve overcrowding in other prisons, especially PJ and T3."
said there are also plans to set up a separate prison for juvenile offenders
near Pochentong airport. He said the much discussed demolition of T3 prison will
not happen until Prey Sar has been expanded.
According to a press
statement from The Physicians for Human Rights , limited renovations of Prey
Sar, T3 and PJ have begun with assistance from the International Committee of
the Red Cross (ICRC) and the UN Center for Human Rights. The statement also said
the four juvenile prisoners in PJ have been shifted to T3 and segregated from
The Ministry of Interior has also reportedly announced that the
population at PJ will be limited to sixty by mid-July. Late last year the
government introduced some improvements such as regular prison visits by
prosecutors and an increase in prisoners' daily allowance to 1,000
The flurry of activity was prompted by several NGO reports from
NGOs. The one from the Physicians for Human Rights, called for the closure of PJ
prison citing "severe overcrowding, food and water shortages and an extreme
level of prisoner on prisoner violence."
A UN Center for Human Rights
report issued on June 1 found that PJ, meant to be a temporary holding facility
built for an estimated 40 persons awaiting trail, had in fact become a prison
holding over 190 people by late May. As a result 47 prisoners lived in the
An ICRC one year study on 18 prisons observed "a lack of
water, sanitation, food and medical supplies in most of the jails visited", and
overcrowded conditions in the city prisons in Phnom Penh, Battambang and Siem
King Sihanouk in a statement issued earlier this month said: "Many
defendants who are particularly impoverished, notably the women, have stagnated
in preventive detention for months or even years."
The King asked for the
release of very sick prisoners and those who have not committed very serious
crimes to alleviate the overcrowding problem.
The extreme overcrowding
in prisons is in part due to the fact that a majority of prisoners are still
A study done by human rights NGO Licadho in May found
that 410 of the 532 prisoners held in PJ, T3, Prey Sar and Takh Mau prisons had
received no trial, and 154 of these people had been in prison for more than six
months awaiting trial. One prisoner held in T3 has been awaiting trial for 8
years. The study found 32 of the people in these prisons were women, and 19
prisoners were children under the age of 18.
Co-Prime Ministers Prince
Norodom Ranariddh and Hun Sen have earlier this month reportedly instructed the
Ministry of Justice to ensure that women and minor offenders are lodged in
separate detention facilities, and that those prisoners awaiting trial be
separated from those who have been tried.
Luy Chanpal of the Cambodian Defenders Association says officials with his
organization in the provinces have also reported that significant numbers of
prisoners are being held without trial, but no statistics are available.
Peter Condliffe of the UN Center for Human for Rights said: "The
Ministry of Justice cannot be expected to ensure proper standards in the
criminal justice system when it receives only 0.2 percent of the national
The delays in holding trials are exacerbated by a lack of
trained legal staff and resources. A press release issued by five Cambodian NGOs
on June 27 called for the creation of a Cambodian Bar with professionally
The statement said: "The shortage of lawyers has been a
major obstacle to rebuilding the country's legal system. Many persons accused of
crimes are tried without adequate legal representation."
The NGOs have
requested that during this transitional period Cambodians who have been trained
as defenders by the UN or NGOs be allowed to defend people in court. The
suggested length of the transitional period is five years.
will be decided when the National Assembly considers a bill to set up a
Cambodian Bar Association which is reportedly being drafted.