Sixteen prisoners in Pursat provincial prison knocked out guards and escaped to freedom shouting “Bravo, we are free” in a riotous jail break Sunday afternoon, officials said Monday.
After knocking out a guard who opened the door to their cell to deliver food, they beat guards at two other gates before fleeing with fists raised, brandishing broken bottles and screaming and jeering at the guards, said prison director Sun Vuthy.
“Our guards were completely shocked and they lost control of the situation,” Sun Vuthy said.
Five of the prisoners were serving life sentences for murder, and others were serving sentences ranging from two to 15 years for robbery, rape and theft, he said.
Officers recaptured 12 of the 16 escapees within an hour, Sun Vuthy said. Several were hiding in the bathrooms of villagers who lived nearby; one had jumped into a jar of water.
The other four escapees are still at large, he said.
It was the first ever jail break at Pursat prison, Sun Vuthy said. He added, however, that it was not surprising, given the dilapidated state of the compound.
“Two years ago, I requested at least $2,500 to fund the construction of a strong fence, but the funding never materialized,” Sun Vuthy said.
Interior Ministry spokesman Khieu Sopheak said prisons across the country desperately need to be renovated.
“Most prisons in Cambodia are very dilapidated,” Khieu Sopheak said. “The walls of the buildings are so weak that they will collapse with even one punch.”
Still, he added, the decrepit buildings are not an excuse for poor enforcement.
Nong Kabora, director of Prey Sar prison’s Second Correction Center, was reprimanded and transferred to another post after 21 juvenile prisoners broke out of the center April 1.
Khieu Sopheak said he did not know if Sun Vuthy would be similarly disciplined.