By David Hutt
Ask any Cambodian about the key issues facing their country and chances are that crime will be near the top of the list. But on nearly all counts, the country’s justice system is failing.
According to the National Police, 2,969 crimes were committed last year, up from 2,817 in 2017. The number stands in contrast to the nation’s bulging prison population, however.
In November, Interior Minister Sar Kheng revealed that there were 31,008 inmates in Cambodia’s 28 prisons, of which almost 72% were being held in pre-trial detention.
That means there are roughly 190 prisoners per every 100,000 people, a bigger proportion than in most other Southeast Asian nations, and higher as a percentage than even authoritarian China.
The prison population has ballooned in recent years after the government launched in 2017 an anti-drug crackdown, similar in tone but not atrocity to the one Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte has championed. As a result, the number of inmates rose by 30% in 2017 alone, mostly for drug-related offenses.