The General Department of Prisons is no longer sending pre-trial detainees to Prey Sar prison due to overcrowding. Instead, it is transferring them to the new PJ prison located nearby.

Department spokesman Nuth Savna said on Monday that the temporary measure was put in place earlier this month due to overcrowding of Prey Sar and because PJ is now located nearby.

“To ease the burden of overcrowding, newcomers are being sent to PJ. The number of inmates in Prey Sar will remain the same until those serving their time finish and are discharged. Now the number is too high which affects management,” he said, adding that Prey Sar will now only receive those who have been sentenced.

The department’s deputy director-general Be Tealeng said there are about 400 inmates at PJ prison, which can hold a maximum of 1,500.

Prey Sar has a population of more than 10,000, with 9,500 inmates in the male section and nearly 2,000 in the female section, he said.

Tealeng said to further reduce overcrowding in Phnom Penh, those who have been sentenced could also be sent to other correctional centres in the provinces.

Am Sam Ath, the senior monitor with rights group Licadho, said PJ will likely also become overcrowded now.

He said civil society groups have provided recommendations to the government. “For pre-trial detention, the court should carefully consider if the accused really needs to be held or can be out on bail.

“The courts must have enough evidence before deciding to charge and detain people. We must also look at those serving time to see if they can be given parole and allowed to work in communities.

“Relevant institutions should find ways to prevent drug crimes. When drug crimes continue, it leads to overcrowding because currently, a lot of drug crimes occur throughout the country,” Sam Ath said.