Banteay Meanchey Provincial Prison is facing a water shortage and 30 percent of its prisoners are suffering from skin irritation due to poor hygiene, according to prison director Nuon Vanna, who claimed that Serei Saophoan city, where the prison is located, is not providing enough water.
“We have a lack of water because we have just one well and the running water is not enough,” Mr Vanna said, adding the prisoners also draw water from an onsite pond. “But for drinking water it isn’t a problem. We provide it to them all the time.”
The prison was the scene of an outbreak of scabies infections in June. However Mr Vanna said he could not identify the current skin conditions.
According to Mr Vanna, a water line from Serei Saophoan city helps meet the needs of the prison’s 772 inmates by night but runs short during the day.
“We are very concerned about the running water not being enough because the people living in the city use the water together during the day,” he said. “That is a problem for our prison.”
“It is just 30 percent who are affected by itching skin and cannot bathe sufficiently, and I appeal to the provincial governor and NGOs to add a well and a pumping machine,” the prison director said, adding that increasingly hot weather is also responsible for the skin irritation.
Serei Saophoan governor Oum Reatrey said he was unaware of the shortage at the provincial prison but added his city was providing enough water.
“For the prison in Serei Saophoan city, I have not gotten a report yet from the prison director about a lack of water,” he said. “We have provided running water very well.”
Provincial Governor Ung Oeun said he was aware of the water shortage at the prison but has not received an official report.
“We will solve the problem that there is not enough water,” he said.
Heng Hak, director general for prisons at the Interior Ministry, said he had not been informed of the situation either.
“I have not yet gotten a report from the prison director so I cannot comment,” he said.
Soum Chankea, provincial coordinator for local rights group Adhoc, said inmates at the prison were living in unsanitary conditions and that the government is not providing enough water to the institution.
Prisoners “have human rights to live just like another person and have to be provided secure living for the period they live in prison,” he said.
Reports of water shortages at the prison are hardly new.
Last June, Adhoc reported an outbreak of skin rashes and scabies that had spread to 95 percent of the prison population, also due to a shortage of water.
Prison officials at the time confirmed the scabies contractions, but said the cases were confined to only a few inmates.
The prison, which opened May 27 in Toek Thla commune, replaced an older prison in O’Ambel commune. The 4.5-hectare, multi-building complex was constructed as part of a land-swap deal in which the previous 3.5-hectare location was ceded to construction contractor Ly Uth Ly.