'VIP' jail in Cambodia scrapped

"VIP" prison wing in Cambodia offering cozier cells for a fee has been scrapped, the interior ministry said Thursday, after the plan sparked outrage in the kingdom.

Builders broke ground on the $4 million facility in 2017 and it was nearing completion last week.

But the government backtracked Thursday, citing a lack of experience in managing the system.

"We did plan to have such a facility...but we abandoned the project now," interior ministry spokesman Khieu Sopheak told AFP.

Cambodia's prisons are notoriously overcrowded and inmates already have to pay for basic amenities.

The additional wing was informally called a hotel and was supposed to be able to hold up to 400 inmates in roomier conditions than those at Phnom Penh's Prey Sar prison.

But rights monitors slammed the idea, saying it would create discrimination between the haves and have nots in a country where impunity for the wealthy is common.

"Inmates who are jailed for the same offenses and have money could stay in VIP cells while those who have no money stay in overcrowded rooms," said Am Sam Ath from local rights group Licadho.

He said it would also make criminals unafraid of going to prison.

The interior ministry spokesman denied the project was dropped due to criticism.

He said the facility would instead house suspects currently awaiting trial in overcrowded cells.

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