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Prison Officials Questioned After Inspection

The Ministry of Interior of Cambodia
The Ministry of Interior of Cambodia

The Ministry of Interior on Thursday called in five officials at Prey Sar prison for questioning over the management of the Phnom Penh facility.

A ministry spokesman said only that the five had been called in for questioning about “irregularities,” but human rights groups say bribery is a common practice, allowing rich prisoners better treatment.

The head of the prison was removed from his position last month, after a ministry inspection of Prey Sar, which is the main facility for prisoners from the Phnom Penh courts. The head of Banteay Meanchey provincial prison was removed from his post Wednesday.

Khieu Sopheak, a spokesman for the Ministry of Interior, said the Prey Sar officials were called in for questioning but no decision to their fate had yet been made. He declined to name them.

Chan Soveth, lead monitor for the rights group Adhoc, said wealthy prisoners were able to pay bribes for larger cells and more visitor privileges in prisons across the country.

Thursday’s summons was a “very good point for warning other prison officials” and improving the nation’s overcrowded prisons, he said.

Am Sam Ath, chief investigator for the rights group Licadho, said the summons signaled a positive step toward overall prison reform.

“The Interior Ministry must make a thorough investigation,” he said. “If any prison official commits a penal offense in prison, that official must be sent to court in conformity with the law. This is a model to strengthen prison management.”