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Draft Prison Law Unclear, Rights Groups Say

Cambodian rights groups say they are worried that a new draft law is not clear enough in its efforts to reform the prison system, which is plagued with mismanagement and overcrowding.

The Ministry of Interior drafted the law to improve how the system works, including education of prisoners and their rehabilitation and reintegration into society.

The draft law, which was approved by the Council of Ministers for parliamentary debate on Friday, contains 85 articles meant to reform the prison system, but it does not touch on military prisons.

Chan Saveth, head of monitoring for the rights group Adhoc, said a new law is needed, but one that meets international standards.

The current draft does not outline clear visitation privileges, punishments for prison guards and other officials who take bribes from prisoners who want better care, or definitions for torture or abuse of prisoners.

“We think there are some points we want to add, so that the prison draft law follows international standards and our constitution,” he said.

Am Sam Ath, chief investigator for the rights group Licadho, said some articles in the draft are not clear.

“In our view, it states more about fines or punishment of prisoners, and in our view it states little about fines or punishment for prison officials,” he said.

Phay Siphan, a spokesman for the Council of Ministers, said the law is meant to protect the rights of prisoners.

“The government is trying hard to make living in prison [a condition that includes] getting respect and better living,” he said.

A statement from the Council of Ministers said the law aims to ensure safety and humane conditions for prisoners.