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Inside the Prisons of Cambodia

Prison overcrowding in Cambodia is getting worse, according to a report published by human rights group Licadho:

Cambodia's prison population is in the midst of an unprecedented population boom. Just seven years ago, the 18 prisons monitored by LICADHO were at roughly 100% of their collective capacity. Today, they are filled to roughly 180% of their capacity, making Cambodia's prison system among the 25 most overcrowded in the world.

The group created a map to highlight the locations of overcrowded prisons:

The group discovered some of the factors which contributed to the problem of prison overcrowding:

The report also highlights three new areas of concern that LICADHO has documented over the past year, including: The practice of imprisoning those who cannot – or do not – pay their criminal fines; a pilot program in which pretrial inmates were transferred to a local drug detention center to reduce prison overcrowding; and the use of prison sentences that are disproportionate to the crimes for which they are imposed. The latter concern is supported by a handful of case studies, including one in which a man was sentenced to a year in prison for stealing a chicken.

Overcrowding in Preah Sihanouk Provincial Prison

The Angkor Post publishes an article that suggests the implementation of non-custodial sentences as a practical reform measure to decongest the prisons:

I strongly support the utilisation of all the sentencing options provided in the Penal Code as alternatives to incarceration. To ensure such measures are viable and effective, the RGC (Royal Government of Cambodia) must provide adequate resources to courts, police and social service providers and those institutions must establish clear processes and procedures for monitoring adherence to non-custodial sentences.

Non-custodial sentences, where appropriate, provide a win-win solution to Cambodia’s prison overcrowding; more effective responses to petty criminal offending and a lower prison population.

The government has promised to draft some policy reforms to improve the prison conditions. Meanwhile, it was reported that an abandoned cinema has been converted into a prison to address the overcrowding problem.

Prison blog

Last month, a blog allegedly written by a foreign inmate in Prey Sar prison was widely discussed in the Cambodian cyberspace. Even mainstream media reported it. Derek Stout notes that “author’s bravado and eccentric use of language are reminiscent of a character in an Irvine Welsh novel.”

Prey Sar prison’s first blogger has been quick to find an eager audience in cyberspace, though some readers have expressed scepticism about the blog’s authenticity.

The first post appeared last Wednesday. By the weekend it had been linked on Twitter and English-language internet forums in Cambodia.

The blog’s author claims to be a western inmate awaiting trial at the notorious prison.

Titled “Life in one square meter”, it details conditions inside a crowded Prey Sar cell. The author’s bravado and eccentric use of language are reminiscent of a character in an Irvine Welsh novel.

Inside a Cambodian prison. Photo from Licadho

The prison blog “Life in one square meter” has been deleted already. Fortunately, LTO Cambodia was able to save a few articles and posted it online:

Offcourse getting this phone in here & having access to internet is the main essentiallity. Being able to follow life on the outside, get information and actively work, makes all the difference!

Just finding ways to smuggle illegal devices such as this, is a challenge & takes alot of effort. Trial and error, loss of cash and time is all a part of it.

The first weeks I was very sick, couldnt eat and was hungry and exhausted most of the time. Several attempts to get to the hospital when the NGOs are here, which turned out to be a big nothing. They are just as useless as the “doctor” in here.

My cellmates managed to get me to the hospital, where they put drip and then tossed me off at a bunk in one of the hospital-cells.

In there the prisoners are the doctors and luckily I was well taken care of, by ine of the inmates, who obviously had seen alot in there.

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