The National Assembly passed a law to reform prisons on Monday, but critics say its wording remains unclear and that one section that allows prisoners to work for private companies should not have been included.
Cambodia has around 15,000 prisoners in 28 prisons across the country, creating severe overcrowding and unrest. Other problems within the system include corruption within the judiciary and the prison system, and arbitrary detention and releases.
Yim Sovann, a lawmaker for the opposition Sam Rainsy Party, said during the Assembly session Monday that a section of the law that allows private companies to contract with prisoners to manufacture goods was particularly worrying.
Section 7 allows companies to create work programs for industry, handicraft and agricultural sectors.
“This is against some international conventions to ban the use of labor forces in prisons for the interests of a private individual,” Yim Sovann said.
Men Sothavarin, an SRP parliamentarian, said the law was not clear in forcing the prison directorate and the Ministry of Interior to establish detailed internal regulations.
However, during the session, Interior Minister Sar Kheng said the law would be sufficient and would help better the management of the prison system.
Am Sam Ath, chief investigator for the rights group Licadho, said the law was Cambodia’s first for regulation prisons. “In the past, without a prison law, prison management had too many irregularities,” he said.