Fearing a jailbreak from the overcrowded and decaying Pursat provincial prison, officials transferred 25 convicts to Trapaing Thlong prison in Kompong Cham province Saturday, Pursat prison Chief Son Vuthy said Monday.
Son Vuthy said he had requested money from the Interior Ministry two weeks ago for new buildings, but his prison is not on the priority list for new projects. Devoid of brick and cement walls, three prison buildings are surrounded only by barbed wire, Son Vuthy said. Some of the buildings are made of decaying wood and bricks, which can be easily broken, he added.
The transferred prisoners were serving long sentences, while another 100 inmates remain in the prison.
In July, 16 prisoners temporarily escaped from Pursat provincial prison. Son Vuthy blamed the breakout on the prison’s weak fences.
“Two years ago, I requested at least $2,500 to fund the construction of a strong fence, but the funding never materialized,” he said in July.
Interior Ministry spokesman Khieu Sopheak, speaking after the July escape, said prisons across the country desperately need to be renovated, as they could “collapse with even one punch.”
Kol Sophan, director of the Interior Ministry’s prison department, called on the government Tuesday to build new structures for the dilapidated Takeo and Kompong Thom prisons first.
“But even these urgent projects will be delayed due to a lack of funds,” Kol Sophan said. “We want them to build new ones, but the government has no budget.”
Chan Soveth, investigator for the rights group Adhoc, said more than 80 percent of prison buildings outside of Phnom Penh are too old and too small to house prisoners humanely. “The health of prisoners is not good, because the rooms are too narrow,” he said. “They should have a good center for them, because it is a place to educate them to be good citizens.”