Prisons bar visits as courts adjourn trials amid Covid

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Inmates were transported back from the Phnom Penh Municipal Court to the prison while their relatives saw them off. Heng Chivoan

The Ministry of Interior’s General Department of Prisons (GDP) has decided to temporarily suspend visits from relatives for detainees across the country and the Phnom Penh Municipal Court has decided to adjourn all hearings for two weeks in order to help prevent the further spread of Covid-19.

General Department of Prisons spokesman Nuth Savana told The Post on February 24 that due to the serious nature of this latest outbreak of Covid-19 the authorities had temporarily suspended visits for two weeks.

Savana added that in these circumstances, not only would they be suspending visitations but for safety purposes they would also be limiting unnecessary contact with prisoners by prison officials and putting restrictions on prison official’s requests for leave too.

“We’ve done this before but we’ve recommended strengthening [these restrictions]. This time they will be stricter than ever before because of the new virus.

“Even in the provinces, those asking for permission to go to Phnom Penh or to other places when it isn’t necessary will not be allowed to do so. If they go somewhere and return to work infected by the virus it could quickly spread to every prisoner. So we all must be very careful,” he said.

However, he said that in cases where it was deemed necessary prison officials would allow relatives to visit inmates, but they must have a compelling reason and the visit must be approved by senior prison officials.

Kandal provincial prison director Chat Sineang told The Post that his provincial prison officials had now tightened security around the prison and would not allow relatives to visit detainees until further notice.

“When relatives come, we now require them to drop-off [items for prisoners] and we will give them to the detainee after they are disinfected with alcohol. Our community seems to be aware of the situation because this morning less than ten people came to visit relatives at the prison,” he said.

According to Savana, there are roughly 39,200 people detained in prisons across the country and of that number approximately 2,600 of them are detained in Kandal’s provincial prison.

Cambodia’s courts are also taking measures in response to this latest outbreak of Covid-19. Phnom Penh municipal court has decided to suspend all scheduled hearings from February 24 to March 12 to assist the government in preventing community transmission of the virus.

Phnom Penh Municipal Court has announced that because of the Covid-19 situation following the “February 20 community incident” where the virus is spreading more rapidly in the community and containment is proving to be more complicated than with previous events the court has decided to postpone all hearings scheduled from February 24 to March 12, 2021.

The announcement states that the municipal court will reschedule these hearings after the Covid-19 situation due to the “February 20 community incident” has improved.

The court also stated in the announcement that the daily administrative work of receiving complaints and providing court services to people will continue normal operations during this period.