Cambodia needs to expand its overcrowded system of 21 prisons to properly house the large number of inmates, which reached a total of 10,903 prisoners in 2007, according to a report released Monday by the Ministry of Interior.
Heng Hak, director-general of prisons, said in a speech at the ministry that prison management needs to improve, and that overcrowding is a major obstacle that must be addressed.
Twenty to 30 people sometimes stay in one cell in Cambodian prisons, according to the report, which noted that prison expansions in Takeo and Kompong Thom provinces are planned for this year.
Better law enforcement, rather than an increase in crime, caused the high number of prison inmates in 2007, which was 6 percent higher than in 2006, Heng Hak said.
“When we strengthen law enforcement, more people who abuse the law will be arrested,” he said.
From 2006 to 2007 the number of people held in prison for robbery increased from 1,830 to 3,036; the number held for murder increased from 950 to 1,357; and for theft from 1,075 to 1,170, though for rape it decreased from 704 to 693.
The prisons report, released Monday, showed 24 inmates escaped prison in 2007, compared to 28 in 2006.
Heng Hak also acknowledged that in 141 instances, people were held without trial because their cases were delayed.
Chiv Huor Lay, a prison researcher with the human rights group Licadho, said by telephone that his organization found 9,653 prisoners in the 18 provinces and municipalities that Licadho monitors.