Six inmates escaped from Ratanakkiri Provincial Prison in a daring predawn breakout on Thursday, while a seventh was stopped by a prison official at the last minute, officials said.
The prisoners used hacksaws to cut through the iron bars that covered their cell window and pincers to cut through a chicken-wire fence around the prison’s perimeter, said Tith Sakhoeun, deputy provincial police chief in charge of serious crimes.
Mr. Sakhoeun said a prison guard became aware of the escape attempt as it was happening—at about 3 a.m.—but managed to stop only Vorn Bros, the seventh and last man to reach the hole that had been made at the bottom of the fence.
“A prisoner was rearrested when he attempted to crawl under the barbed wire of the fence,” Mr. Sakhoeun said, naming the inmates who successfully fled as Chan Saros, Sy Noy, Ouk Chanthou, Lim Sitha, Las Sareth and Un Sopheap.
Mr. Sakhoeun said the tools used in the escape did not come from inside the prison.
“A small pair of pincers and three hacksaws were found,” he said. “We do not know where the tools came from.”
According to Morm Vanda, deputy prosecutor of the Ratanakkiri Provincial Court, the six escapees were serving sentences for crimes including robbery, drug trafficking and intentional violence.
“I issued warrants for them to be arrested,” Mr. Vanda said. “We have alerted [authorities in] nine districts.”
Prison director Tin Sovanny said that after questioning Mr. Bros, he established that the group had assistance from outside the facility, saying that someone had thrown the tools over the outer fence, which is about 3 meters high.
Mr. Sovanny declined to comment further, but according to Chhay Thy, provincial coordinator for rights group Adhoc, who visited the detention facility on Thursday, the prison director claimed he personally thwarted Mr. Bros’ escape.
“The prison chief said he himself ran and tackled the last prisoner who tried to run away, and shouted for prison officers to intervene immediately because he could only arrest one of them,” Mr. Thy said.
Local media also reported Mr. Sovanny’s version of events.
Four prisoners escaped from the Ratanakkiri prison in a similar fashion in November last year, cutting through barbed wire and slipping through to freedom. Mr. Sakhoeun said they were eventually caught and sent back to prison.
According to Article 561 of the Criminal Code, inmates who escape from prison face between a one- and three-year extension of their jail term and a fine of $500 to $1,500.