The Kep Provincial Administration, through the General Department of Prisons (GDP), has requested that 5ha of land be designated as state private property to be used for the construction of a new provincial prison in Andong Sar village of Damnak Changaur district’s Poang Teuk commune.

Provincial governor Som Piseth told The Post on September 28 that the provincial administration and the GDP had already agreed on that location for construction of the new prison after the opening of the new facilities for the provincial court and prosecutor’s office on September 24.

Piseth said that with the opening of the provincial court building, they need another detention facility for use by law enforcement and the court, so they plan to build one in an area about 10km from Kep town that is higher up in the hills and can avoid flooding in the rainy season.

“We have already checked the location of the land and asked for guidelines from the government, because in the province there is only state public land and that needs to be subdivided into state private property in order for us to make use of it,” he said.

He said the construction would be the GDP’s responsibility and there was no exact timeline determined as yet because they first need to get their request approved by the Ministry of Interior.

The facilities will be situated on a larger plot of land than originally planned in order to more easily allow for future expansion and to accommodate infrastructure needs there to ensure that although the facility is a prison, it is modern and operated under humane conditions.

He said this was important because prisoners are human beings and the prison would ideally be a place of education, reform and rehabilitation in addition to serving its role as a form of punishment.

To that end, he said, the prison must have vocational training, craft skills training, housing for prison officials, gymnasiums to allow for safe prisoner exercise and land to spare for small-plot gardens or agriculture to give the prisoners productive ways to pass the time there.

“Prisons are not supposed to be a “hell on Earth” experience. If [Cambodia] intends to send them to hell, there’s faster and cheaper ways to do it than a prison. We want this to be a place where they have an opportunity to turn their lives around and change.

“There will be vocational trainers to train carpenters as well as electricians and craftsmen who can teach them to create souvenirs to sell to tourists who come to visit the province – in other words, give them the skills to earn an honest living,” he said.

Yun Phally, the coordinator for rights group Adhoc in Kep and Kampot provinces, welcomed the construction of new and presumably upgraded and modern prison facilities because of current issues nationwide with prisoner overcrowding.

He said that currently many detainees had to be sent over to Kampot provincial prison but that only made conditions worse over there and ideally the new facility could be used the other way around and take on some of their prisoner overflow to ease that burden.