Keo Remy, chairman of the Cambodian Human Rights Committee (CHRC), has described widespread improvements in the human rights situation in the Kingdom’s prisons. 

He explained that the inmates of Correctional Centre II (M2), the women’s section of the capital’s Prey Sar Prison, receive adequate food, as well as vocational training and health care. He noted the excellent cooperation between the CHRC and the General Department of Prisons (GDP).

According to CHRC spokesman Sreang Chenda, Remy made his observations during a November 29 meeting with the GDP at the M2 facility.

Chenda said the two institutions organised the meeting with the intention of strengthening close cooperation, in order to improve the provision of human rights in prisons and detention facilities and ensure they are in line with the international human rights norms and standards.

He added that the CHRC chairman was impressed with the situation in the prison, noting that inmates at M2 received adequate food, with a clean environment and sanitation. Inmates are able to leave their cells for fresh air and exercise, and receive vocational education and training. The centre also has a library for inmates to read books, as well as places of worship for all religions.

“As part of our mechanisms for monitoring the human rights situation in prisons, we have teams working with all prisons and correctional centres across the capital and 24 provinces. In Phnom Penh, we supply mailboxes which prisoners can place requests in. Our teams hold the keys to these boxes, and we check them regularly,” he continued.

He noted that the GDP and the CHRC have worked closely for a long time and are committed to furthering their cooperation in order to monitor human rights situation in prisons and correctional centres throughout the country. The two institutions also meet regularly.

Am Sam Ath, operations director at rights group LICADHO, said that the meals provided in the Kingdom’s prisons may be enough for some detainees, provided they receive some additional support from their families. He was also concerned that some of the vocational training on offer did not meet the actual needs of the job market. He noted that the most serious issue remains overcrowding, and suggested that the issue requires more attention from the government and relevant institutions.

“Overcrowding in the prisons affects the health of inmates, as well as their environment and hygiene. Civil society organisations urge a solution to this problem. We have suggested that the Ministry of Justice and the GDP try to bail more prisoners, rather than holding them in pre-trial custody, but this has been done very few times,” he said.

He added that the government should adjust the provision of vocational training for detainees as a bridge to help them re-enter society upon their release from prison.