A prisoner was knocked unconscious and sent to hospital on Wednesday after he fell from a tree while cutting branches at a kindergarten in Sihanoukville.
The incident sparked outrage from police and commune officials who said Preah Sihanouk prison bosses had not told them of the prisoners’ presence in the community.
“This case has shocked and scared people,” said Kong Sear, the chief of Commune 2 in Sihanoukville. “Police had not been informed that those prisoners were carrying out work in the community.”
Five workers had been cutting the branches of trees at the kindergarten – for firewood for the prison’s kitchen – when Von Ret, 30, lost his footing and fell three metres to the ground, villagers told police. Prison officials took him to the provincial hospital.
Som Prak, the Commune 2 police chief, said prison officials should have told him prisoners were working outside, so that officers could ensure the safety of residents.
“Prison officials have to take responsibility for a case like this, but we’re also partly accountable if a prisoner dies, disappears or is violent,” he said.
Som Sophal, director of Preah Sihanouk prison, said the prisoners that had been working outside had not committed any serious crimes and had shown signs of reform behind bars, and confirmed that they had been up the tree because the prison needed firewood.
“We regret that one of our prisoners fell. But scans show no serious damage has occurred and he is … walking around as usual,” he said.