Interior Minister Sar Kheng has said that Vietnamese prisoners jailed in Thailand cannot be transferred to Cambodian prisons.
Mr Kheng made the comment during a National Human Trafficking Day event on Koh Pich Wednesday evening.
He noted that it is illegal for Cambodia to accept Vietnamese prisoners from Thailand because Cambodian laws prohibit the transfer of foreign prisoners into the Kingdom.
“This cannot happen – who could do it? Cambodia cannot find enough prisons to house Cambodian prisoners,” he said. “How can we accept foreign prisoners to be jailed in Cambodian prisons? It would be against national and international laws.”
Long Visalo, Cambodian ambassador to Thailand, on December 6 said Vietnamese prisoners had requested to be transferred to Cambodian prisons.
“The embassy cannot solve this, so the embassy needs to review the nationality of the prisoners,” Mr Visalo said in a statement. “The embassy can only provide a solution to Cambodian prisoners.”
He said at the time that the Cambodian embassy had visited Cambodian prisoners after Thailand and Cambodia agreed on the prospect of an inmate exchange.
Mr Visalo said those who could be eligible for transfer include those serving time for less than one year, those who have served two-thirds of their total sentence and those who have made a personal request.
He noted that there are 2,910 Cambodians who are imprisoned in Thailand, including 2,641 men and 269 women.
Lieutenant General Be Tea Leng, deputy director general of the General Department of Prisons, yesterday said Cambodia can only accept Cambodian prisoners.
“We can’t exchange prisoners unless they are Cambodian,” Lt Gen Tea Leng said. “We cannot accept foreign prisoners.”
He noted that the prison population in the Kingdom has been increasing over the last year.
“There are more than 30,000 inmates in prisons across the country. In 2017, we had more than 20,000 inmates,” Lt Gen Tea Leng said.
When asked how the prison department is tackling the issue of overcrowding, he said that his department only implements what is necessary by the law.
“Whether or not the population of prisoners decrease or not depends on the court and the Justice Ministry,” he said. “We can only renovate old buildings and build new beds for prisoners to reduce overcrowding.”
In October, Senators asked the Interior Ministry to build more prisoners to reduce overcrowding in jails.
The prison population in the country increased by nearly 30 percent in 2017 when compared to 2016, an annual GDP report published in February showed.
“The prison population rose 29.21 percent compared with 2016,” the report said. “That equals to 6,425 people, including 662 women.”
The prison population in 2017 was 28,414 inmates, the report noted.