An autopsy report released Friday indicates a prisoner who died in the Takeo provincial prison on April 20 was beaten to death.
Chuon Than, 40, had been serving a six-month term for assault in connection with a neighborhood land dispute when he died. Prison officials claimed he had fallen ill with typhoid, but family members said he had been healthy a few days before his death.
The autopsy, performed by pathologist Dr Iv Kiry on May 1, shows the man died of a broken neck, said Keo Sameth, chief of the criminal and civil departments of the Ministry of Justice.
“These documents conclude that death was not due to typhoid but to murder,’’ Keo Sameth said. “The Ministry of Justice is paying very close attention to this case.’’
According to the autopsy report, the man’s body was badly bruised on the head, neck and torso, although the only bones broken were in his neck.
Keo Sameth said Prime Minister Hun Sen has indicated he wants this case solved, and quickly. But, he said, any time law enforcement officials are suspected of wrongdoing, the cases are difficult.
Human rights workers had expressed concerns about the case within a few days of Chuon Than’s death. Kek Galabru, founder of the human rights group Licadho, said his family believed he had been tortured to death.
Licadho sent investigators to Takeo, including a medical doctor who examined the body although he is not a trained pathologist. “He is a very careful doctor, and although he saw marks on the body, he did not want to say they were the cause of death,’’ she said.
Licadho was awaiting the results of Dr Iv Kiry’s autopsy before deciding what to do next in the case. Kek Galabru could not be immediately reached for comment Friday evening.
Officials have grown increasingly sensitive to reports of prison beatings since a scathing 1998 report by UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan, which said as many as 20 percent of Cambodian prisoners were tortured by police and prison officials.
Om Bun Thoeun, undersecretary of state at the justice ministry, said Takeo prosecutor Mey Sokhon is investigating the case, and a report will be forwarded to ministry officials and Hun Sen.
(Additional reporting by Phann Ana)