Senator, Activists Say Provincial Prisons Increasingly Crowded

Conditions inside Koh Kong and Kompong Speu provincial prisons are increasingly crowded but improving, Funcinpec Senator Men Maly said Wednesday toward the end of a three-day fact-finding visit to the jails by the Senate commission on human rights.

Local rights workers broadly agreed but said serious problems remained.

Ms Maly, chair of the Senate commission, also said the pro­vinces appeared to be facing no major human-rights or land-dispute issues.

“Now, it is not violent in the prisons like before,” she said, but conceded that the prisons were growing increasingly crowded and faced a lack of government funding.

Ms Maly also conceded that some prisoners continued to be held too long, whether awaiting trial or having served their sentences, laying the blame for this on everything from a lack of government resources to forgetful prison staff.

She declined to go into further detail because the final day of her visit had yet to end. The senator stressed that her commission was only responsible for investigating such problems.

Solutions are “not under my jurisdiction,” she said.

Rath Thavy, a monitor for hu­man-rights group Adhoc in Kom­pong Speu province, agreed that conditions inside the provincial prison were improving. However, he said he still hears reports of prison staff demanding payments of up to 40,000 riel, or about $10, to prepare the necessary documents for a prisoner’s release.

He said between 30 and 40 percent of the province’s prisoners were still detained beyond their release dates, blaming careless courts and case files that go ig­nored when judges get shuffled.

Mr Thavy, who met with the senator on Monday, said he also informed Ms Maly about some of the pro­vince’s land disputes, including one between villagers and the sugar plantation of CPP Senator Ly Yong Phat in Thpong district.

In Koh Kong, Adhoc coordinator Un Thanann also reported increasingly crowded conditions at the provincial prison and said prison staff were still demanding $5 bribes from families to let them visit incarcerated relatives.

Koh Kong Provincial Prison chief Sam Ol Phearith denied that his prisoners were detained too long or that his staff demanded bribes for visits.

“These problems do not happen in this prison,” he said. “The situation in prison is good.”

Kompong Speu Provincial Prison chief Kak Savon declined to comment.

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