Prey Sar prison officials on Friday set fire to 1,705 mobile phones that had been confiscated from inmates there over the past three years.
Yin Kun, deputy chief of Prey Sar’s Correctional Center 1, said that the public burning of phones would remind prisoners that communicating privately via telephone with the outside world was prohibited.
“We have inspected every cell in the prison for three years until today to collect all these phones. Now, we have burned them,” Mr. Kun said, adding that the prison had recently ramped up its monitoring of inmates. “We have strengthened our work by increasing our monitoring of prisoners and cells to daily inspections in an effort to monitor activities that break internal rules, such as using mobile phones.”
The mobile phone burn-off comes about six months after Prey Sar hired a private company to install equipment to jam mobile phone signals, effectively ending that mode of communication.
“With the system, both prisoners and officials here cannot communicate through mobile phones,” Mr. Kun said. “Since we have had the mobile phone jamming system we have noticed that contact through mobile phones has reduced significantly.”
Am Sam Ath, technical supervisor at rights group Licadho, which closely monitors the country’s prisons, said the removal of mobile phones from Prey Sar was a positive move, but questioned whether the phones had to be destroyed.
“Those phones should have been transferred to state property, especially for use in government bodies such as the National Police, where there is a lack of communication,” Mr. Sam Ath said.
Mr. Sam Ath also raised questions about the environmental impact of burning more than 1,700 phones, which are made of toxic substances such as plastic and lead.
“Burning those phones in the area of the prison would have [negatively] impacted the environment and the health of the prisoners and officials there,” he said.
Mr. Kun said the financial loss in burning the phones was minor.
“We cannot estimate the total value of the phones but most of them are cheap phones, not modern models,” he said.