The Interior Ministry has indefinitely suspended Banteay Meanchey Provincial Prison Director Nuon Vanna from his post while it investigates allegations that the official’s negligence led to the escape of a Cambodian-American inmate, officials said yesterday.
Leav Mov, deputy director-general of the ministry’s General Department of Prisons, said Interior Minister Sar Kheng ordered that Mr Vanna be temporarily removed as director following the Sept 20 escape of 29-year-old Alexander Proeun, a Cambodian-American national.
Mr Vanna’s “removal could be temporary,” Mr Mov said, before referring questions to provincial prison officials.
Mr Proeun was found guilty of illegal detainment of human beings by the Phnom Penh Municipal Court in 2008 and sentenced to 17-years in prison, according to Banteay Meanchey Provincial Prison Deputy Director Thean Chhorvoan.
Mr Chhorvoan added that Mr Proeun was transferred to prison in 2009 after serving approximately one year of his sentence at Phnom Penh’s Prey Sar Correctional Center 1. He declined to clarify how Mr Proeun escaped or provide details of the charges against him.
Mr Vanna said yesterday that he was removed from his post on Tuesday under accusations that he accepted thousands of dollars for arranging Mr Proeun’s escape.
“Because of this bribery rumor, I have been ordered to work in the General Department of Prisons in Phnom Penh for a while,” he said, denying ever having helped the prisoner escape.
“The inmate escaped by himself” during a trip outside the prison to a dentist, he said.
“At that time, I sent three prison guards along with the inmate,” he said. “But the prisoner escaped when he was un-handcuffed so the dentist could treat his toothache.”
“I am confident that inspection officials…will find me justice,” he said.
Banteay Meanchey provincial police chief Hun Hean said yesterday that police had not been informed of Mr Proeun’s escape.
“Our police have never been informed by prison officials to capture the escaped inmate and we never knew that an inmate escaped,” he said.
Mr Vanna declined to comment as to why police were not informed of Mr Proeun’s escape.
Soum Chankea, provincial coordinator for rights group Adhoc, said that Mr Vanna should be held accountable for Mr Proeun’s escape.
“Such carelessness is frightening for the plaintiff’s life when the convict is out of the prison cell,” he said. “The prison director must be responsible before the law.”