Prisoners from the derelict 110-year old Kompong Thom Provincial Prison have started being relocated to a brand new facility, prison officials said yesterday.
The walls and roof of the old provincial prison, built in 1900 during the French colonial era, have started falling down in recent years, and the facility has historically suffered from gross overcrowding.
Prison director Chea Yoeurn said yesterday that 60 of the roughly 200 prisoners held at the old jail had been moved to a new facility, built on the outskirts of Stung Sen City with the assistance of the Australian government’s Cambodia Criminal Justice Assistance Project on the outskirts.
Despite appearing to be near complete several months ago, Mr Yoeurn said that electricity had only recently been connected to the new prison by a private provider.
Up until this week, about half of the prison’s population has been forced to live outside under a plastic shade tent because only one cell was inhabitable. Mr Yoeurn said that the rainy season had made living at the jail tough for prisoners.
“Sending some of the convicts to be detained in the new jail is really helpful and benefits other prisoners at the old jail where the prison is critically overcrowded,” Mr Yoeurn said, adding that the relocated prisoners were helping to create a vegetable garden at the new facility.
Mr Yoeurn said that another 40 prisoners would be relocated to the new prison next week, but added that the dirt road linking the prison from National Road 6 was proving a problem. “We were only able to transport prisoners on dry days, not on the days when it rained,” he said.
But Heng Hak, director-general of the Interior Ministry’s Department of Prisons, said yesterday that he was unaware of any plans to relocate more prisoners in the short term. “I have not yet received an official request for this,” he said.
Mr Hak, however, said that a construction company had been selected after a recent bidding process to start building a health center and an office for lawyers to meet their clients at the new jail.