Cambodia Penal System
Sources: The Library of Congress Country Studies; CIA World Factbook
Individuals sentenced to imprisonment, as a result of administrative or judicial proceedings, were incarcerated in one of a nationwide network of about 200 prisons. These installations were administered by the Prison Directorate of the Ministry of Interior and by the People's Security Service. They constituted a manytiered system extending from the national level to the local level. At the national level, the principal prison was T-3, located in Phnom Penh. This institution was built in the early twentieth century, and it has served as a prison for every successive regime to hold power in Cambodia. The facilities were enlarged when the present government was installed in 1979. In the mid-1980s, it held about 1,000 prisoners. Administration of T-3 was shared by the Ministry of Interior and by the Phnom Penh People's Security Service, which used the facility to confine some its own prisoners apprehended in the capital area. In addition to the T-3 central prison, two other national penal institutions, code-named T-4 and T-5, were reported. Both functioned as labor camps, and they appeared not to be maximum security prisons. T-4, located on the outskirts of the capital, was administered by the Phnom Penh People's Security Service; T-5, in Kampong Cham, administered by the provincial People's Security Service. Overall responsibility for T-4 and for T-5 may have rested with the Bureau of Reform Offices of the Prison Directorate.
Each of Phnom Penh's twenty wards or precincts had its own short-term confinement facility. The precincts, however, had to transfer their prisoners after three days to the central People's Security Service headquarters for confinement in T-3. Away from the capital, independent municipalities (such as Kampong Saom), provinces, and districts all had their own jails and prisons. These facilities usually were administered by the People's Security Service at the provincial level, and at lower lower echelons. One of the better known provincial prisons was TK-1 in Batdambang city; the installation was taxed to the utmost in its role as a detention facility for captured guerrillas, smugglers, border-crossers, and insurgent sympathizers, because of its location in an area of heavy resistance activity. The capacity and status of other provincial prisons could not be verified. Given the regime's lack of resources, conditions in all of them must have been spartan, if not appalling. In some of them, inmates were taken out on work details to perform manual labor, such as brush-clearing, ditchdigging, or dike-construction; however, this may have been on an ad hoc, rather than on an institutionalized, basis. Prisoners who had served their sentences were freed by a release order signed by People's Security Service or Ministry of Interior officials and were permitted to return to their home areas. Former detainees kept their release papers on their persons or near at hand, as a safeguard against rearrest.
The law-enforcement apparatus in the PRK, like the armed forces, became more institutionalized as the decade of the 1980s progressed, but how well the two establishments coordinated to insure national security at all levels remained open to question. These establishments did represent, however, the institutional foundations laid down by the regime and by the ruling party in order to retain power, ensure ideological orthodoxy, and impart a measure of internal stability. In the turmoil of a war-ravaged country, the fact that these institutions had been created represented an accomplishment--human rights issues aside--for the government and for its Vietnamese mentors. In a broader sense, these institutions were part of the sovereign nationhood that Cambodia was striving to regain while deferring uneasily, but pragmatically, to Vietnam.
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No published monographs address, either comprehensively or specifically, the armed forces or law-enforcement bodies of Cambodia. Fragmentary accounts are given in the works described below. The reference for Khmer warfare in ancient times is Horace Geoffrey Quaritch Wales's, Ancient South-east Asian Warfare. The Japanese occupation period is briefly covered in Joyce C. Lebra's Japanese-Trained Armies in Southeast Asia. For the French colonial period and for the early part of the Sihanouk era, up to 1953, useful information is found in Maurice Laurent's L'Armée au Cambodge et dans les pays en voie de developpement du Sud-est asiatique. The most concise reference on the Cambodian armed forces of the Khmer Republic is Sak Sutsakhan's The Khmer Republic at War and the Final Collapse. For information on United States security assistance to the Cambodian armed forces and on its associated problems, an authoritative source is by the General Accounting Office of the United States, U.S. Assistance to the Khmer Republic (Cambodia), Report to the Congress. The armed forces under the Khmer Rouge are discussed in two essential sources: Craig Etcheson's, The Rise and Demise of Democratic Kampuchea and Ben Kiernan's How Pol Pot Came to Power.
Authoritative accounts of the Vietnamese invasion and of the reconstitution of the Cambodian armed forces, are given in Nayan Chanda's Brother Enemy, The War After the War and in Elizabeth Becker's When the War Was Over. Timothy Carney's "Heng Samrin's Armed Forces and the Military Balance in Cambodia," International Journal of Politics, Fall 1986, continues to be a seminal piece indispensable to a discussion of the KPRAF, although by the late 1980s some of the information was dated. Other treatments of the KPRAF and the insurgency in Cambodia are given in Defense and Foreign Affairs Handbook. This publication is issued annually, and its discussion of Cambodian affairs from a defense point of view has become more comprehensive over the years. Personnel and military equipment figures for Cambodia are given in The Military Balance.
Law-enforcement and security agencies, discussed from a human rights perspective rather than as government institutions, are dealt with in Floyd Abram's and Diane Orentlicher's Kampuchea: After the Worst and Kampuchea: Political Imprisonment and Torture by Amnesty International. (For further information and
Data as of December 1987
NOTE: The information regarding Cambodia on this page is re-published from The Library of Congress Country Studies and the CIA World Factbook. No claims are made regarding the accuracy of Cambodia Penal System information contained here. All suggestions for corrections of any errors about Cambodia Penal System should be addressed to the Library of Congress and the CIA.