The Kampot Provincial Prison moved Tuesday from its location in the heart of Kampot City to a new facility 17 km out of town in a land swap with a private company that officials refused to name.
Kampot provincial governor Koy Khun Huor said the relocation was necessary because the old prison, which dated from the French colonial era, was in poor condition.
He confirmed that the government had swapped the old site with a private company in exchange for the construction of a new prison building, but declined to name the company or give further details about the deal.
“The reason that we swapped… was that the company constructed a new prison for us,” Mr. Khun Huor said.
The prison’s director, Em Bo, said the move was undertaken to improve the prisoners’ living situation, as the new building would be more spacious and hygienic.
“The old prison is small and the buildings are in ruins, so we cannot let the prisoners live in those buildings,” Mr. Bo said, adding that the new prison building is more than five times larger than the old one.
He said the prison’s 360 male and 14 female prisoners were moved to the new facility Tuesday.
Yin Phally, provincial prison researcher for human rights group Licadho, said the deal was made a year ago, but that his organization had yet to identify the company involved.
“I think that this change was kept secret at the request of the company that purchased the old prison,” Mr. Phally said.
Heng Phearak, provincial monitor for human rights group Adhoc, said his organization had also been unable to find out what company had purchased the land.
According to Sung Bonna, chairman of Bonna Realty Group, the difference in price between land in Kampot City and land 17 km out of town meant that the company taking over the old prison stood to profit handsomely from the deal.
“It’s between roughly $200 to $400 per square meter for property in [Kampot] City center,” Mr. Bonna said.
“Land outside the center is between $3 to $10 [per square meter] for rice field land.”
(Additional reporting by Taylor O’Connell)