A new Prey Sar prison building – part of the scrapped VIP prison project – was handed over to the Ministry of Interior’s General Department of Prisons on Friday and will be put into operation soon.
General Department of Prisons director-general Chan Kimseng said the new building will help reduce overcrowding and temporarily replace Phnom Penh’s Police Judiciaire (PJ) prison, which is filled beyond capacity until a new prison has been completed.
The building, on the compound of Prey Sar prison in the capital’s Dangkor district, was built on 1.5ha at a cost of some $4 million by Kunn Rekon Holdings Co Ltd.
“According to the principle of [Minister of Interior] Krala Hoam Sar Kheng, the Phnom Penh prison is allowed to use the building for some time to alleviate overcrowding.
“We will use this building until the new prison is finished. It won’t be long before it is put into operation.
“We need to process the legal documentation regarding prisoner relocation and submit the documents to the government. It’s less than a month away, but we will try to speed up the process,” Kimseng said.
Ministry of Interior spokesman Khieu Sopheak said in July that the ministry had abandoned the VIP prison project after a study found no other country had “pay-to-stay” prisons for inmates able to afford them.
“At first, we asked permission from the government to build a prison for those who want to have more space in return for paying a little money.
“[But] we have looked at other countries, and none has built such a prison. So we have decided to abandon the project.
“No other country has done this, so if we were to, they would use us as an example to follow, and if we were to do it alone, it would be unfeasible,” he said.
Am Sam Ath, the deputy director of monitoring at human rights organisation Licadho, welcomed the decision to abandon the VIP prison project saying it meant the government would avoid criticism about unfair discrimination against the poor.
“Private prisons are not good for Cambodia. It would discriminate against poor people by making life easier for wealthy criminals.
“They will be less afraid to commit crimes because they know they could go to a private prison with comfortable facilities,” he said.
General Department of Prisons spokesman Nuth Savna recently told The Post that there were more than 36,600 people detained in prisons across the country, of whom more than 3,000 were women, with many of them drug offenders.