Phnom Penh Prison Diary

5-Prison-Prey-SarAs the author of a crime novel set partly in Phnom Penh’s Prey Sar prison, I was extremely interested to stumble across this 2014 article in Bayon Pearnik magazine. It’s in 12 parts, of which I can only find the first 8 online, which is a pity as it means I don’t know how the story ends, but I gather it all happened in 2011/2012 (and maybe took even more time) and that the author is now out.

Very briefly, he was accused on child sex charges (falsely he says, and I believe him given the evidence, or rather the lack of it), and put through the wringer. Some highlights:

The Cambodian police have a 100% clear-up rate on crimes, and the Cambodian court system has a 100% conviction rate. To make that clear: the police always somebody, for every crime, and it always turns out to be the right person. Always.

imagesPrey Sar prison is the purest possible expression of capitalism. Everything costs. Take water. A company has the contract to deliver bottled water, for which the prisoners pay whatever the guards demand. Sometimes it rains. A kind NGO noticed this and installed rainwater tanks. The guards padlocked the tanks and sold the rainwater. (Mains water was connected since the author’s stay and prisoners are supposed to have access to a litre a day, but I’m sceptical).

Prey Sar has a rigid class system, based on wealth. Pay $500 and you get upgraded to the VIP wing, where there are only 25 men to a cell. Above that are two further classes of VIP, which cost even more. Tops is the Monivong prison hospital (which is not on Monivong Boulevard – its’ too difficult to explain), where young ladies of dubious morals are available for hire.

  • Don’t get into debt in Prey Sar. It’s very easy to get into debt. Don’t.
  • Don’t bother with a lawyer. Not unless you want to buy a remission on your sentence, or an amnesty – but those cost, and are slow to arrive, and you’ll grow thin while waiting. Lawyers, by contrast, are sleek and well-fed.
  • Don’t tangle with the child protection NGOs. They’re never wrong, even when their evidence is something out of Monty Python.

Here are the links to the 8 out of 12 parts that I could find online:

Part 1; part 2; part 3; part 4; part 5; part 6; part 7; part 8.