As of April 5, almost 100 per cent of the 38,000 inmates in prisons across the country had received booster shots against Covid-19, with some having already received a fourth shot, according to General Department of Prisons (GDP) spokesman Nouth Savna.
Savna said the GDP had encouraged capital and provincial prisons to work with their counterpart health departments to ensure all prisoners vaccinations were kept up to date.
“There are very few prisoners who have not yet been vaccinated, and there are currently no cases of infection in the prisons. When new cases emerge ... we implement the measures recommended by the Ministry of Health immediately,” he said.
Svana said that representatives from the Red Cross and the UN in Cambodia had met with prison officials and had expressed their appreciation for the work the Kingdom had done in dealing with the pandemic. Its vaccine response was singled out for particular praise, with some suggesting Cambodia may have the most highly vaccinated prison population in the world.
“It is very special that the international community has appreciated what we have done. The rates of death and infection in our prisons are relatively low when compared to not just our neighbouring countries, but other nations around the world. We managed to control Covid-19 well. Even though Cambodia is a small country, we excel in other things,” Savna added.
Am Sam Ath, deputy director of rights group Licadho, recognised the government’s commitment to vaccinating detainees, saying it was the most necessary measure, because prisons in Cambodia were overcrowded. This affected the health and hygiene of prisoners, and meant infectious diseases like Covid-19 could easily be transmitted.
He added that if measures had not been taken in time, its spread would have been rapid and uncontrollable, but added that vaccinations and prevention alone were not enough. The most important action that needed to happen was to find ways to reduce overcrowding.
“Although the government has considered speeding up proceedings in the courts and issuing guidelines for the unconditional release of prisoners who are near to the end of their jail terms, as well as setting up a commission to monitor and release prisoners, the processes have not yet been implemented,” he said.