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King seeks to improve prisons

King seeks to improve prisons

Cambodia's King Norodom Sihanouk has called for international help in renovating

the nation's prisons, saying inmates were held in sub-human conditions.

The King said it had become "urgent to renovate or better to demolish these

prisons and replace them by new penal institutions, respecting minimal international

norms, which...conform to the principle of respect for human rights.'

Sihanouk, in a declaration issued by the Royal Palace on Jan 6, said inmates of prisons

in the capital and provinces, some dating back to French colonial times, had to survive

in sub-human conditions.

"They lose their human dignity," because of the appalling conditions, the

king wrote, adding: "The most basic hygiene rules are not respected...the food

that is served to them is insufficient and disgusting."

He said the poor conditions of the buildings and lack of maintenance of cells together

with overcrowding left the prisons breeding traps for disease.

Human rights workers noted that prison conditions had improved during the 1992-93

UN-peacekeeping mission to Cambodia but had taken a turn for the worse last year.

The sources, who estimated Cambodia's prison population at more than 2,000, noted

that an inmate at a provincial prison near Phnom Penh had died of malnutrition last

year.

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