A Change of Guard

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Saturday, 21 May 2016

PM calls for prisons to separate drug users, other convicts


Prisoners of Phnom Penh’s Prey Sar prison pose for a police photo behind a table filled with illegal drugs in early March following a police raid. Photo supplied
Prisoners of Phnom Penh’s Prey Sar prison pose for a police photo behind a table filled with illegal drugs in early March following a police raid. Photo supplied

PM calls for prisons to separate drug users, other convicts
Fri, 20 May 2016
Mech Dara and Erin Handley


Prime Minister Hun Sen issued a directive calling for prison officials to take a tougher stance on drug crime by separating drug users from other prisoners and cracking down on crime channels between inmates and their networks at large.

The letter, signed on February 1, came to light yesterday after general department of prisons spokesman Nut Savanea confirmed his officials were working with the National Authority for Combatting Drugs (NACD).

The directive came just five months after a report the prison population had swollen by 20 per cent, which Savanea had said was partly due to increased drug arrests for minor offences.

“The national anti-drug authority . . . must track down the trail of drug crime in order to ensure the appropriate punishment fits the crime,” Hun Sen’s order read.


Savanea said officials had been trained to identify symptoms of drug use, find and confiscate illicit substances and educate prisoners. “We cannot put the people addicted to drugs together with other prisoners, because some people with severe addiction disturb the other people,” he said.

David Harding, who has worked with Cambodian drug users for 15 years, doubted prisons had the resources to separate inmates and feared it would lead to harsher conditions for drug-dependent people or those arrested for possession or recreational use.

“To have people put in worse conditions that are more draconian purely because they have a history of drug use . . . while people convicted of murder or rape are not, would actually end up being a less secure situation,” he said.

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