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Prison law expected to get Assembly OK

Prison law expected to get Assembly OK

A draft law to manage the Kingdom’s overcrowded prison system is expected to be passed by the National Assembly today, an official said yesterday.

Senior CPP lawmaker Cheam Yeap said that debate on the draft law would continue today.

“I am optimistic that the law will be passed [today],” he said, adding that seven of the 11 chapters in the draft still had to be discussed.

Sam Rainsy Party lawmaker and spokesman Yim Sovann told the Post last week the draft law had to guarantee the health and security of prisoners as well as prevent prison violence and the escape of inmates.

Prison overcrowding was also a concern, he added.

“Our standard is to keep only seven or eight thousand prisoners [in the prison system], but actually there are more than fifteen thousand,” Yim Sovann said.

He added that problems in the present system included guards soliciting bribes to all-ow family members to visit inmates, and the smuggling of drugs into jails, in which guards were often complicit.

Nouth Sa An, secretary of state at the Ministry of Interior, said on Friday the ministry was attempting to crack down on smuggling and bribery.

“Prison guards who take money from a criminal’s family will not be forgiven if we see this action,” he said, adding that the high number of inmates was due to “vigorous” law enforcement and crackdowns on drug offenders.

Last week, officials from the general department of prisons at the Interior Ministry said at a meeting that overcrowding was the main contributor to the spread of disease in prisons.

A report released by rights group Licadho in July stated that at least 12 facilities of the 18 monitored by the organis-ation were at, or near, double their intended capacity.

It also described dire health conditions in prisons, with services “almost non-existent” for those without money.

Licadho senior investigator Am Sam Ath said on Friday  the law should include pro-vision for better health care in prisons.

“[The draft law] should have a mechanism for prisoners to complain if they are abused, and it should ensure there is no charge for visitors,” Am Sam Ath said.

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