By Gerald Flynn / Cambodianess

Over the course of May 2021, the fear that COVID-19 would breach Cambodia’s prisons was finally realized, but despite being warned of such a possibility for more than a year, the government has so far refused to explain its response to the crisis or detail the exact number of cases found within the penal system.

This has prompted concerns among rights groups that COVID-19 is going unchecked through Cambodia’s gravely overcrowded prisons and that cases are not being reported.

DLA Piper called for a reduction in custodial punishments, notably pre-trial detention which is how an estimated 35 percent of the roughly 39,000 prisoners in Cambodia are held.

A similar study conducted across 109 countries by Harm Reduction International and the International Drug Policy Consortium published in January 2021 also found that prison release schemes eased the burden on states during the pandemic, but while they had been initially successful, they were not widely implemented.