THE United Nations Centre for Human Rights released a major report on the state
off Cambodian prisons yesterday.
The 119-page document is the first major
report of its kind documenting the situation in the Kingdom's penal
The report's introduction paints a stark picture of prisons
nationwide by stating that "Cambodia's prisons are in a state of
"Penal administration is in disarray. Prison buildings are in
many cases literally falling down. Medical care is often non-existent and
disease and malnutrition are rampant."
However, the report's author,
Peter Condliffe says that there is cause for optimism and that he is encouraged
by the progress he has seen in prison reform.
"There is some impetous for
reform," said Condliffe. "In a lot of prisons there have been improvements.
There is less torture, shackles and dark cells than previously. Although there
are still some who do use these."
Condliffe said the prison system was
under pressure due to a 12 percent increase in total prison population
nationwide in the last year while at the same time the resources needed to
manage the system have not kept pace with
this growth. This stems from the
increased caseload being taken on the Kingdom's courts.
Cambodia has an incredibly small prison population.
prisoners are being held in 24 civilian prisons. TheKingdom's prisoner to
population rate (measured by number of prisoners per 100,000 citizens) is about
22, while the figure for the rest of the world is roughly 106.
cited for the relatively small size of the prison population include: 1) the
inherent weakness of formalized systems of public enforcement and adjudication;
2) the reliance upon informal "self-help" systems to resolve disputes; and 3)
the consequent lack of public and enforceable standards of
Condliffe said the key to reforming the system was prison
management. He said that while the UN Centre for Human Rights was receiving good
cooperation from the Prison Department's Director Na S. Hieng, there was not a
"lot of uniformity" in how lock-ups were managed throughout the
Condliffe also said that international donors who were aiding
the rehabilitation of the Kingdom's judicial system needed to recognize that
prisons were part of the overall equation and that more resources should be
directed to support reform by these aid agencies.