Logo of Phnom Penh Post newspaper Phnom Penh Post - Private prison breaks ground

Private prison breaks ground

Content image - Phnom Penh Post
Prison Department officials and Interior Ministry Secretary of State Pao Horm Phan (in suit) participate in a groundbreaking ceremony to inaugurate a new private wing at Prey Sar prison yesterday in Phnom Penh. Hong Menea

Private prison breaks ground

Ground was officially broken yesterday on a new facility at Prey Sar prison that will soon enable the upper crust of the Kingdom’s underworld to buy their way out of overcrowded jails and into the relative luxury of a privately run institution.

Announced last year, the new facility was billed at the time by Interior Minister Sar Kheng as a “hotel or detention centre”, and would provide better lodging to inmates who could afford to pay for the upgrade while at the same time generating revenue for the state.

Chinese firm Kunn Rekon Holdings Company is developing the $4 million project and will operate the new prison, said Pao Ham Phan, a secretary of state at the ministry who inaugurated the project yesterday.

Content image - Phnom Penh Post
Ministry Interior Secretary of State Pao Horm Phan speaks at the groundbreaking ceremony for a new private wing at Prey Sar prison yesterday in Phnom Penh. Hong Menea

Prisons department spokesman Nuth Savna confirmed yesterday that the new facilities would be available to inmates who could pay for them, with the first phase of the project expected to be completed in mid-2018.

The 45-year build-operate-transfer agreement will see the state and Kunn Rekon sharing the revenues.

“The one who can afford to pay to stay there we will allow to stay there. There will be 400 people for the first phase,” he said. “The price is up to the company how much they want to charge.”

While he at first said the facilities would be no different from other prisons, Savna did acknowledge that the new prison would have bigger rooms and space for exercise and worship, but insisted that no activities that bend the law would be allowed.

“Everything is implemented within the government’s policy, and do not think that there will be massage services or other things,” he added.

Yao Chen Ming, deputy director of the Kunn Rekon, said the aim of the new block was to ease overcrowding at the existing prisons. On completion, the buildings will be able to house 1,200 inmates, including 180 inmates for drug rehabilitation.

He added that his firm was primarily into property development and this was their first project in Southeast Asia. Overcrowding in Cambodia’s prisons is indeed at epidemic levels. In February, a prisons official said Prey Sar alone was holding 5,000 inmates, despite being designed for 1,200.

A 2015 report by rights group Licadho found that prison life across 18 centres in Cambodia was dictated by cash flow, with wealthy inmates routinely paying for better cells, alcohol and prostitutes, as well as purported “VIP cells” for well-connected prisoners.

Boeung Kak activist Chan Puthisak, who was jailed during the violent crackdown of protests at Veng Sreng Boulevard, said Prey Sar already afforded the rich and business tycoons special treatment, with poorer inmates having to fend for basics like food.

“This is like immunity because this encourages the offenders to continue to commit crimes, because when they commit crimes there is no punishment for them because they live happily and spend money freely in prison,” he said.

Duch Piseth, advocacy officer at the Cambodian Center for Human Rights, said designating spaces within prisons as a “good space or bad space” inherently infringed on the rights and freedoms of all inmates, who should theoretically be treated equally.

MOST VIEWED

  • NY sisters inspired by Khmer heritage

    Growing up in Brooklyn, New York, Cambodian-American sisters Edo and Eyen Chorm have always felt a deep affinity for their Cambodian heritage and roots. When the pair launched their own EdoEyen namesake jewellery brand in June, 2020, they leaned heavily into designs inspired by ancient Khmer

  • Cambodia records first Omicron community case

    The Ministry of Health on January 9 reported 30 new Covid-19 cases, 29 of which were imported and all were confirmed to be the Omicron variant. The ministry also reported 11 recoveries and no new deaths. Earlier on January 9, the ministry also announced that it had detected the Kingdom's

  • The effects of the USD interest rate hike on Cambodian economy

    Experts weigh in on the effect of a potential interest rate expansion by the US Federal Reserve on a highly dollarised Cambodia Anticipation of the US Federal Reserve’s interest rate hike in March is putting developing economies on edge, a recent blog post by

  • PM eyes Myanmar peace troika

    Prime Minister Hun Sen has suggested that ASEAN member states establish a tripartite committee or diplomatic troika consisting of representatives from Cambodia, Brunei and Indonesia that would be tasked with mediating a ceasefire in Myanmar. The premier also requested that Nippon Foundation chairman Yohei Sasakawa

  • Kampot tourism quay ‘90% done’

    Construction on Kampot International Tourism Port – a 4ha quay in Teuk Chhou district about 6km west of Kampot town – has fallen off track, reaching 90 per cent completion, according to a senior Ministry of Tourism official last week. The project is now planned to be finished

  • Demining rat ‘hero’ Magawa dead at 8

    A landmine-hunting rat that was awarded a gold medal for heroism for clearing ordnance from the Cambodian countryside has died, his charity said on January 11. Magawa, a giant African pouched rat originally from Tanzania, helped clear mines from about 225,000sqm of land – the equivalent of 42