Temporary detention facilities used by police and military police in Banteay Meanchey’s Malai and O’Chrou districts are filthy, unhygienic and far too small to hold one prisoner, according to local rights group Adhoc.
The Malai military police use a holding cell that is only 1.6 meters by 2 meters in floor area and has a height of just 1.6 meters, according to Adhoc provincial coordinator Suom Chankea.
The cell used by police in O’Chrou district, which includes the border town of Poipet, is also cramped and has a foul stench and atmosphere because of a total lack of toilet facilities.
“We have received a lot of complaints from former detainees who experienced…human waste and urine in the cell which produced a terrible smell,” Suom Chankea said. “Such cells basically are constructed to hold rats rather than to detain human beings.”
Contacted by telephone Wednesday, Malai military police commander Kem Chamroeun said that the detention cell his officers use is far too small, but a lack of funding has prevented his department from constructing a new one. He added that other district-level detention cells in the province are of similar size to the one at his station, which he said was only 1.5 meters by 1.5 meters by 1.4 meters—smaller than Adhoc had claimed.
“Of course, and I speak honestly, the detention cell is really small,” he said, “and suspects cannot stand as the height is about 1.4 meters high.”
Kem Chamroeun said he has been asking for eight years for a new cell but has made no headway with his superiors.
“Basically, the top leaders just order us to find money by ourselves,” he said. “I want to appeal for help from NGOs to get funding for the construction of a new detention cell,” he added.
Kem Chamroeun, however, denied that his detention cell was unsanitary and noted that suspects never spend more than 48 hours in custody.
Newly appointed O’Chrou district police chief Nuth Ly denied that his detention cell has been kept in an unhygienic manner since he became chief last month.
“Previously, I have no idea whether it was hygienic or unclean with a bad smell,” he said. “But since I first started my work on Jan 23, the detention cell smells good and it is clean.”
He added that he welcomes all suggestions as to how to improve sanitation in holding facilities.
“I will not bring [suspects] and detain them in dirty and bad- smelling detention cells containing human waste,” he added.