An education organization hopes to set up libraries is seven of Cambodia’s prisons. The group, Sipar, hopes to have the libraries finished by the end of the year, in an effort to educate prisoners so that they might better integrate with society on their release.
“We think that detainees have less opportunities to be educated than the general public,” said Hok Sothik, director of the organization.
The ultimate goal is to have libraries in all of Cambodia’s 26 prisons by 2014, serving more than 15,000 prisoners nationwide.
The organization will start with provincial prisons in Banteay Meanchey, Kampong Cham, Kampong Thom, Kandal, Koh Kong and Prey Veng, as well as Prey Sar prison in Phnom Penh.
“I think it’s necessary that we assist [prisoners] with additional education so they receive as much [help] as they can to reintegrate in the society when they finish purging their guilt,” Hok Sothik said.
The expanded program is being built from a pilot project focused on Prey Sar prison in 2010. It expanded into two more facilities, in Battambang and Siem Reap provinces, with the help of the UN human rights office in Cambodia.
“More than 20,000 books were stored in those libraries,” Hok Sothik said. Topics covered general education, literature, history, agriculture, human rights and technology, he said.
Christian Provoost, an EU representative in Cambodia, said European support for the library assistance program was part an effort to improve human rights and the rule of law in the country.