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ICRC Offers Prisons Help

Taing Vida / Khmer Times Share:
Senior opposition member Son Chhay has complained about a number of prison issues he says need to be addressed. KT/Chor Sokunthea

The International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) is willing to offer assistance in future prison building projects, and in the preparation of prison management policies that are in line with international standards, the National Police website said on Tuesday.
 
According to the website, the ICRC head of mission in Cambodia, Bart Vermeiren, spoke with Interior Minister Sar Kheng and expressed his wish to involve the ICRC in future prison initiatives, with a focus on health care provision for prisoners.
 
During the meeting, Mr. Vermeiren requested that a technical working group look into social and vocational training programs for detainees so they are better able to reintegrate after their release, a suggestion welcomed by Mr. Kheng.
 
Mr. Kheng acknowledged recent overcrowding in prisons and stated that his ministry was planning to build a new prison in Pursat province to deal with increasing prisoner numbers.  
 
At a press conference yesterday outside the Cambodia National Rescue Party’s (CNRP) headquarters, senior member Son Chhay said he had observed a number of “irregularities” in prison policy after recent visits to jailed party members.
 
He said he would call on Justice Minister Ang Vong Vathana to clarify prison procedures and political neutrality.
 
“First, the matter of how prisoners are pardoned needs to be more accurate. Second, detainees should not be waiting for trial for too long without a conviction, because this affects their rights. Third, the small space of prisons – Prey Sar prison can hold about 1,000 detainees, but recently there are more than 4,000 detainees.”
 
Justice Ministry spokesperson Chin Malin said that although the constitution grants members of parliament the right to summon government officials to appear, each minister has the right to refuse to comment directly if they believe it to be not related to their duties.
 
Mr. Malin stressed that the issues brought by Mr. Chhay are not recent, but that technical officials of the Justice Ministry attempted to solve them and have achieved some success, while some remain.
 
“We have explained to him [Mr. Chhay] about the detention and the trial procedure many times, but he seems not to accept it or to not understand. With further proposed problems, I hope he can supply evidence to support his claims, so that we can consider how to deal with it, rather than just giving speeches.”
 
According to a 2015 report by local rights group Licadho, numerous issues concerning Cambodia’s prisons remained unsolved, such as prisoner abuse, sexual and political discrimination, exploitation and corruption.  
 
Although the report notes that the government has taken a number of steps to reform prisons, many issues still exist.

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