Local human rights group Adhoc said Thursday that Battambang provincial prison inmates have been producing furniture without pay at a sawmill and workshop inside the prison compound.
The accusation comes on the heels of a similar complaint by the rights group this week that prisoners were being used in the Ratanakkiri provincial prison to make furniture, using illegal luxury woods, at a mill and woodwork shop inside the jail.
Adhoc’s Battambang provincial coordinator, Yin Mengly, claimed that the chairs and wardrobes constructed by prisoners were made for the families of prison officials.
“[Inmates] received something small, such as cigarettes and food,” Yin Mengly said of the prison workers’ compensation.
“They have never been paid and they could just eat enough—more than others,” he said by telephone Thursday.
Local rights group Licadho said that senior prison officials had allowed an inmate, Teav Chhay, who is serving a 10-year sentence for forestry crimes involved with illegal logging, to run the mill and workshop inside the prison compound. The workshop is used to produce wooden handicrafts, said Licadho investigator Heng Say Hong.
Battambang provincial prison Deputy Director Chay Sovann denied any wrongdoing, saying inmates were paid 20 percent of the furniture workshop’s profits, though it had not made any money yet. The project is aimed at vocational training, he added.
“[The workshop] is for them not to stay inside the buildings. There is labor for them to do to make some money and not get sick,” Chhay Sovann said, adding that the prison also had some debts that needed to be paid.
Teav Chhay had been put in charge of the workshop because he has experience working with timber, he added.
“He helps look after it; he knows [about wood], and police don’t know.”