Logo of Phnom Penh Post newspaper Phnom Penh Post - Slain prison escapees buried

Slain prison escapees buried

Slain prison escapees buried

The bodies of 17 prisoners shot and killed March 23 while trying to escape from CC3

prison in Kampong Cham were buried the following morning, according to Kang Sokhorn,

chief of Kampong Cham provincial police. Human rights workers have been denied access

to the facility.

The burial site, one kilometer from the prison, was under guard, and it was unclear

if autopsies had been performed following the men's deaths.

The condition of four inmates who were reportedly wounded during the breakout is

unknown, but officials at the prison told local human rights group Licadho that NGO

Prison Fellowship would be allowed onsite to provide medical attention by March 25.

Meanwhile, a massive manhunt is underway for the male prisoners still at large.

Reports varied as to how many escapees have been re-arrested.

A spokesperson from Licadho said government sources had told them three of 25 convicts

had been captured.

Kang Sokhorn, however, told the Post on March 24 that six prisoners had been re-arrested,

while another 19 remained on the run.

"We are concerned about the safety of the villagers and trying our best to re-arrest

those who escaped," Sokhorn said.

He said that several hundred provincial and military police had been deployed in

Ponhea Krek, Dambae and Memot districts to search for the men.

The escape occurred at around 2:15 p.m., when inmates grabbed four officials who

were touring a furniture workshop within the prison and held them hostage.

The men taken hostage were Huy Tork, deputy chief of the Ministry of Interior's (MoI)

prison department, Sun Bunna, chief of the prison, Kea Sovanna, deputy chief of the

prison and Chou Chhaiteang, prison manager.

Sokhorn said the officials were stabbed and beaten before being forced into three

cars parked within the jail compound. They were crashing the cars through a third,

outermost gate when prison guards opened fire.

"We shot them in order to rescue the officials," Sokhorn said.

He said Sovanna and Chhaikeang were mildly injured when shot in the back, but Bunna

and Tork were in a serious condition after being stabbed and beaten. They were sent

to hospitals in Vietnam.

The breakout was Cambodia's biggest-ever escape, said Som Kol Sokun, director of

the prison department at the Ministry of Interior.

Human rights workers added that it was also the most people ever killed during an

escape attempt.

Sokun said that his department has immediately begun rethinking prison security,

saying that he suspected the escape happened because guards were too soft on prisoners.

"I think that it was not [due to] our carelessness, but it occurred because

of our pacifism with the prisoners, and because it was unexpected," Sokun said.

He said that all prisoners are allowed fresh air and can work in the fields, furniture

shop or kitchen.

While conditions inside prisons have improved in recent years, most Cambodian facilities

are still considered well-below acceptable international standards for detention.

Hok Lundy, chief of national police, visited the prison on March 24 and ordered experts

from the MoI to thoroughly investigate, Sokhorn said.

Correctional Center 3, known as CC3 or by its former name T5, is located near the

Vietnamese border in Ponhea Krek district, Kampong Cham, about 60 kms east of the

provincial capital.

It houses convicted male prisoners and last month held 933 inmates.

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