Logo of Phnom Penh Post newspaper Phnom Penh Post - Prison numbers jump 20 percent



Prison numbers jump 20 percent

Interior Minister Sar Kheng speaks at a meeting launching the ministry’s annual report yesterday in Phnom Penh. Photo supplied
Interior Minister Sar Kheng speaks at a meeting launching the ministry’s annual report yesterday in Phnom Penh. Photo supplied

Prison numbers jump 20 percent

Cambodia's already swollen prison population leapt by more than 20 percent last year, according to the Ministry of Interior’s annual report, which acknowledged the influx has caused “serious challenges” with overcrowding, and revealed one-third of inmates are in pre-trial detention.

Released at the ministry’s annual meeting yesterday, the report gave a rundown of the security sector’s activities in 2016, and also lauded the ministry’s suppression of protests, targeting of political dissidents and jailing of human rights workers.

It stated that 2016 saw a 3 percent rise in overall crime alongside a 22.8 percent increase in the prison population, with 13,635 people incarcerated last year and only 9,408 released. A further 76 prisoners died and three escaped.

Overall, it tallied 21,989 prisoners, including 1,781 women, 903 minors and 927 foreigners, with 40 percent of those jailed in 2016 locked up for drug offences, 10 percent for murder and 7.4 percent for aggravated robbery.

For the prison population overall, 7,495 were in pre-trial detention. Of the remaining 14,494, 8,028 have been sentenced but have not exhausted their avenues for appeal, while 6,466 have received a final verdict.

Acknowledging capacity issues, the report advocates for new facilities, increased staff, and for prison officials to be quickly notified of decisions to free prisoners.

“The high increase in prisoners in 2016 has caused prisons to face serious challenges of detainment room,” it states.

Reached yesterday, Interior Ministry spokesman for the General Department of Prisons Sorn Keo said authorities were working to increase the system’s capacity, including the construction of new buildings at Pursat’s Correctional Centre 4.

He said that, when finished, the facility would take prisoners from Phnom Penh’s Prey Sar Prison, which currently houses 5,000 inmates despite being designed for just 1,200.

“Crowded prisons cause health issues, problems with food rations and accommodation,” Keo said. “In short, it affects all things.”

The report also notes plans to build two new buildings at Prey Sar and plans for a private company to build a new prison in Sihanoukville. Keo would not comment on the progress of a private facility for wealthy inmates at Prey Sar, first reported by The Post last year.

Speaking yesterday, Licadho director of advocacy Naly Pilorge said the organisation was unable to verify the numbers with its own prison-monitoring data, though the increase was in line with long-observed trends.

She said the government’s solution to build new prisons would not fix the problem, adding that the state’s approach to social issues such as drugs, which saw users imprisoned rather than treated, was a major factor in the continuing surge.

“You just can’t manage and treat problems in society, whether it is criminal or drug related, by putting everyone in prison,” said Pilorge.Meanwhile, with the prison population at a “breaking point”, Amnesty International researcher John Coughlan said, it was “crucial” to end the widespread use of pre-trial detention.

As for overall crimes in Cambodia, the Ministry cited 2,785 criminal cases in 2016, compared to 2,709 in 2015. It attributed the 3 percent rise to an increase in murder, rape and fraud cases along with an increase in protests and strikes.

Regarding the latter, it says demonstrations and strikes jumped to 1,089 in 2016 from 832 the year prior. It blamed this rise on land dispute claimants, employees unhappy with working conditions and groups “incited by a political party and some of civil society”, whom it called “extremists” that agitated about the “border issue, race and human rights” to “poison society”.

Interior Minister Sar Kheng echoed this sentiment in his speech at the event.“In our country, some extremists still have the desire to incite and attempt to trigger chaos and insecurity,” he said.

The report lauded the ministry’s “effective” suppression of protests, targeting of dissidents and arrest of five former employees from rights group Adhoc, which it claimed protected “security, stability and social safety”.

Further still, it claimed the arrests of the human rights workers who remain in pre-trial detention over “bribery” charges related to opposition leader Kem Sokha’s alleged affair and those of two students detained in separate cases over Facebook posts, had “received support from people and the public”.

The cases, all widely considered politically motivated, have drawn condemnation nationally and internationally.

ADDITIONAL REPORTING BY SHAUN TURTON

MOST VIEWED

  • Seven positive for Covid-19, Hun Sen confirms local transmission

    Prime Minister Hun Sen announced that there has been local community transmission of Covid-19. However, he urged the people not to panic even though the Ministry of Health announced the discovery of seven new cases on Sunday. Among the victims are Chhem Savuth, the director-general

  • Cambodia at ‘most critical moment’, Hun Sen warns

    Prime Minister Hun Sen said the first community transmission of Covid-19 in Cambodia has led the country to the “most critical moment” that warranted urgent, large-scale operations to contain the pandemic. Hun Sen, who confirmed the first local transmission on November 28, said the source of

  • PM confirms community transmission, calls for unity

    Prime Minister Hun Sen has called on the public to stay calm, unite and follow the Ministry of Health guidelines after the wife of a senior official tested positive for Covid-19 in the Kingdom’s first case of community transmission. The case has drawn criticism

  • Over 110 garment factories close

    A government official said on November 22 that at least 110 garment factories had closed in the first nine months of the year and left more than 55,000 workers without jobs – but union leaders worry those numbers could be much higher. Ministry of Labour and Vocational Training undersecretary

  • Singapore group seeks $14M in damages from PPSP over ‘breach of contract’

    Singapore-based Asiatic Group (Holdings) Ltd is seeking a minimum of $14.4 million relief from Cambodia Securities Exchange (CSX)-listed Phnom Penh Special Economic Zone Plc (PPSP) for allegedly breaching a power plant joint venture (JV) agreement. Asiatic Group’s wholly-owned Colben System Pte Ltd and 95 per

  • PM vows to protect Hun family

    Prime Minister Hun Sen has vowed to continue his fight against opposition politicians who he said intend to smash the Hun family. Without naming the politicians but apparently referring to former leaders of the Supreme Court-dissolved Cambodia National Rescue Party (CNRP), Hun Sen said there