After a Death, Illnesses Reported Among R’kiri Prisoners

Two detainees at Ratanakkiri Provincial Prison were admitted to hospital yesterday just four days after another 24-year-old inmate died from what hospital officials said was acute respiratory illness, a rights worker said yesterday.

Seang Lam, 30, and Vietnamese national Vong Nga Than, 48, were admitted to hospital early yesterday after falling ill with stomachaches, said Pen Bonnar, Ratanakkiri coordinator of rights group Adhoc. Two other inmates showed similar but less serious symptoms and were not sent to hospital, he added.

“There are a few inmates who have been sick and some of them were immediately sent to the hospital,” he said. “This shows that conditions inside the prison are not good.”

Sok Sarith, 24, who had been charged with breach of trust and held in provisional detention for more than three months for allegedly stealing a motorcycle in Banlung City, died Thursday at Ratanakkiri referral hospital.

Mr Bonnar on Friday called for an examination to determine the cause of death before Mr Sarith’s burial, citing concerns over the suspect’s treatment while in detention.

He said prison officials had repeatedly denied his requests to inspect the body and that he was concerned that Mr Sarith could have been tortured or otherwise injured while in detention.

Officials from the hospital and the court said Friday that Mr Sarith died from an acute respiratory illness after being admitted to the hospital two days previously.

Mr Bonnar was unable to confirm a diagnosis for the two inmates admitted yesterday, as hospital officials refused to talk to Adhoc’s investigator.

Hing Skunthea, director of Ratanakkiri referral hospital, and Ngin Nel, director of the Ratanakkiri prison, could not be reached for comment yesterday.

Heng Hak, director-general of the general department of prisons, yesterday maintained that Mr Sarith had died from a respiratory illness. He said guard officials had buried the body because they were unable to reach Mr Sarith’s relatives and ask them to take the body home for funeral rites.

“He surely died from illness,” Mr Hak said, adding that under prison regulations they were not required to grant Mr Bonnar an autopsy as the provincial prosecutor had inspected the body and authorized the burial.


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