20 Inmates Shot Dead in Prison Break

Prison guards fatally shot 20 inmates as they reportedly tried to escape Kompong Cham prov­ince’s CC3 prison on Wednesday, after taking their prison chief, two guards and a Ministry of Interior of­­ficial hostage with knives and axes, the provincial police commissioner said.

Commissioner Kong Sokhon said the unprecedented prison break at one of Cambodia’s largest prison facilities occurred at about 2:10 pm, when a delegation—comprised of Huy Tork, deputy chief of the Interior Ministry’s prison de­partment, CC3 prison Chief Sun Buna, and guards Kea Sovana and You Chaytong—toured the pri­son’s workshop, where inmates train to construct furniture.

About 50 prisoners, each serving between 10 years to life imprisonment for various crimes, alleg­edly used their work tools to stab the visitors. Then using them as hostages, made their way through the first of the prison’s three gates, Kong Sokhon said.

He said the escapees used the hostages’ keys to open the gate.

Once outside the first gate, the prisoners commandeered vehicles belonging to the hostages and the prison, including two pickup trucks, one Mercedes-Benz sedan and one Toyota Camry, Kong Sok­hon said.

By that time, more than 100 of CC3’s 900 inmates had joined the escape attempt, he said.

After the prisoners made their way through the second gate, about 20 or 30 of the prison’s security guards opened fire with AK-47 assault rifles—even though the four hostages were reportedly being held inside the vehicles, the commissioner said.

“That was the last choice,” Kong Sokhon said.

In the gunfire, 16 prisoners were killed instantly, and others wounded, he said. The four host­ages survived.

“Some [prisoners] fled outside and escaped. The others were shot dead,” he said. Only the two trucks successfully escaped through the third and final gate, he said.

By 5 pm, four wounded prisoners died inside the CC3 compound, Kong Sokhon said, adding that all the bodies were immediately sent to a local pagoda to be cre­mated today.

Prison Deputy Chief Huy Tork, and prison Chief Sun Buna were critically injured in the gunfire and sent to nearby Vietnam for treatment, said Sun Sok Ly, governor of Kompong Cham’s Ponhea Krek district, where the prison is located.

The other two reported host­ages, Kea Sovana and You Chay­tong, were only slightly injured, officials said.

The entire incident was quelled within an hour, Sun Sok Ly said.

Kompong Cham provincial military police Chief Va Sarith also said the clash ended abruptly.

“The prison was stable after a gunfire [that lasted] about an hour,” he said.

Kong Sokhon, however, said more than 30 prisoners were still at large, though the exact number of men on the run was unknown.

By about 5 pm, three more es­capees were apprehended about 3 km from the prison, he said.

“Police have deployed more forces to re-arrest [the others],” he said.

According to Ponhea Krek district Deputy Governor Seng So­kim, CC3, also known as T-5 or “Trapeang Thlong,” is the country’s second largest prison. It is located about 60 km from Kom­pong Cham town.

The prison, which is run by the Ministry of Interior, was under the 1,000-person capacity at the time of the alleged jailbreak, he said. In past jailbreaks at other prisons, overcrowding is frequently blam­ed.

“There has never been a break out” at CC3, Seng Sokim said.

General Sok Phal, deputy director-general of National Police, said Wednesday that three high-ranking Interior Ministry officials had gone to Kompong Cham from Phnom Penh to investigate the in­ci­dent.

Initially asked about the prison break, he said early reports had indicated that the incident in­volved a “suspect [who] ran away from the house,” but he later re­ferred questions to police commissioner Kong Sokhon.

Naly Pilorge, director of local rights group Licadho, said prison escapes in the past have resulted in killings. But she said, “This is by far the highest number of kil­lings…for a prison escape.”

She also warned that if the prisoners’ bodies are cremated without autopsies performed on them, it will be difficult to find out what exactly took place.

“The government should be doing autopsies before the government cremates them,” she said, otherwise, “you can’t document anything. You can’t do anything.”

The government should call for an investigation into the incident, she added.

Sam Rainsy Party lawmakers issued a statement Wednesday evening, condemning the killing of the prisoners, especially in light of Monday’s confrontation in Poipet between protesting villagers and authorities, in which police and military police opened fire, killing five people.

“It seems the government is no longer in control,” opposition spokesman Ung Bun-Ang said in the statement.

(Additional reporting by Wency Leung)



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