Money outlawed at CC1. Guards in charge of exchange system.
The director of Correctional Center 1 outside of Phnom Penh has banned money inside
the prison and switched to specially printed coupons in an effort to curb stealing
and limit spending by prisoners.
The new "money" at Correctional Center 1.
Kim Sarin, director of CC1, which houses convicted males 10 kms outside of Phnom
Penh, confirmed that the coupon system has been in place since July.
"The change from money to coupons is to control and learn about how much the
prisoners pay per day and also to protect the security at the prison."
Sarin said well-off prisoners were spending up to 20,000 riel a day for privileges
and goods to supplement the meager 1,000 riel daily food ration allocated by the
He said some inmates were stealing cash off others, causing problems within the prison
community, and the serial numbers on the coupons meant that money could be tracked
The new coupon system works like a small-scale foreign exchange. When friends or
family bring money to prisoners the inmates must change the cash for coupons with
guards who collect a fee of five percent.
"Yes. The guards will get five percent, but this money will be used to print
the coupons - so the coupons can't be copied."
The penalty for being caught with cash is time in solitary detention, said one recent
visitor to the prison.
While both the prison management and inmates at CC1 seem to be happy with the new
arrangement, an anonymous source involved in prisons said the measures were introduced
after an attempted prison break in March in which at least 17 prisoners were killed.
Authorities were concerned that prisoners with too much money might pay other inmates
to assist with an escape attempt at CC1, said the source on condition of anonymity.
It was in Kampong Cham's CC3 prison that the coupon system was first introduced in
2000, said Kea Sovanna, acting director of the facility.
Sovanna said the coupons were an easy way of controlling the prisoner's expenses,
adding that the coupons can only be used to buy food and a maximum of 5,000 riel
can be spent per day.
He denied reports that guards at CC3 take a 10 percent cut when cash is exchanged
to coupons, saying only that prisoners sometimes buy guards a pack of cigarettes
out of kindness.