Interior Minister Sar Kheng yesterday said a new detention centre designed to house wealthy inmates behind Prey Sar prison will be completed by the end of 2018 in conjunction with the Malaysian firm Kunry Khon Holdings.
Mr Kheng revealed the deadline for the prison’s completion while presiding over an annual meeting for the General Department of Logistics and Finance yesterday.
“The prison building that is being constructed in conjunction with a private company will be finished by the end of 2018,” he said.
Mr Kheng said the pay-to-stay prison has been criticised by some observers, but argued that overcrowding would be reduced at Prey Sar prison by allowing wealthy inmates to stay in the newly built detention centre.
“We should not be criticising this plan but should be supporting it because when the rich inmates who were detained with the poor at Prey Sar move out, it means those remaining at Prey Sar will have more space,” he said.
Mr Kheng said the new prison would not be akin to a hotel, as some critics have argued.
“I want to clarify that the General Department of Prisons has been instructed not to allow the new centre to become like a hotel, with mattresses and air conditioning,” he said. “We won’t allow that.”
Mr Kheng added that the Interior Ministry also had plans to retrofit old prisons and build new ones in provinces that lack detention centres.
“We detain people, but we do not detain them like animals,” said Mr Kheng.
Construction on the private prison began in May following a $4 million investment from the Malaysian firm in an effort to reduce serious overcrowding in the country’s prisons.
The prison population in the country increased by nearly 30 percent in 2017 when compared to 2016, an annual report by the General Department of Prisons revealed this week.
“The prison population rose 29.21 percent compared with 2016. That equals 6,425 people, including 662 women,” the report said.
The prison population for 2017 was tallied in December and recorded 28,414 inmates, including 2,443 women.
The Malaysian firm will receive a 45-year contract to operate the private prison, though the Cambodian government will be in charge of security and determining which prisoners are detained there.
Major General Sorn Keo, spokesman for the General Department of Prisons, said the new prison would have the same standards as state prisons.
“It is not different from other prisons, but if prisoners have money to pay, they can stay there,” Mr Keo said. “I just know that it is three floors and it can detain from 300 prisoners to 400 prisoners.”
“I think that when it is finished, it will help reduce overcrowding,” he added.