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Prison project on hold due to Covid

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The construction of a new prison on 10ha of land in Kampong Chhnang province’s Rolea Ba’ier district. Photo supplied

Prison project on hold due to Covid

The construction of a new prison on 10ha of land in Kampong Chhnang province’s Rolea Ba’ier district has been temporarily postponed due to the Covid-19 crisis.

The new prison, which is scheduled to be completed by a private company this year, can accommodate around 2,000 inmates, according to General Department of Prisons spokesman Nuth Savna.

Savna said the construction of the new prison was initiated by the provincial administration to replace the old one which currently stands on 1ha of land in the same district.

“The provincial administration saw that the old prison was narrow, so we need to find a new place that has space to provide training for detainees and vegetable gardens [they can tend] while incarcerated,” he said.

According to Savana, the construction of the new site includes a detention building, a health post, a library, a hall, a handicraft workshop, an administration building and a kitchen.

“Because of the Covid-19 pandemic, the company faced a financial problem and requested a six-month delay in November last year,” he said.

Savana said that the new location, which also provides room for expansion, could accept detainees from other provincial prisons too.

Ministry of Interior secretary of state Pao Ham Phan said that the number of detainees had increased after authorities launched a nationwide crackdown on drug-related crimes across the country.

Ham Phan said among the more than 39,000 inmates nationwide, over 22,000 were involved in drug offences, accounting for more than 58 per cent of the total. He pointed out that in prison management, there are two main challenges, one of which is overcrowding due to lack of infrastructure.

“Normally, there is space for about 12,000 prisoners. But now the number of detainees has risen to more than 39,000. If we do not renovate the prison cells to offer more space for inmates to stay, it will not be possible to manage the number of detainees,” he said.

The second challenge, he said, is presented in article 4 of Chapter 3 in the royal decree on inmate clemency which states that sentence reductions and pardons can only be implemented for those who have been sentenced to imprisonment by a final verdict.

“Based on the royal decree, we can only implement it on about 12,000 prisoners. As for the more than 16,000 other convicts, although they have been to trial, some have not yet received a final verdict while others are still on appeal,” he said.

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