After hearing complaints that relatives were being asked to pay up to $5 to visit their family members in the Ratanakkiri provincial prison, officials said yesterday that they have ordered prison officials to stop taking money and to only allow visits on visiting day.
Sok Horm, a Ratanakkiri provincial council member, said yesterday that the order has been made after the provincial governor and provincial council received verbal complaints from the relatives of prisoners at a meeting organized by the Committee for Free and Fair Elections last week.
Mr Horm said that about a dozen people at the meeting reported that they always had to pay $5 to prison officials when they visited their relatives.
“The rule is that relatives are allowed to visit inmates once a week on Friday,” Mr Horm said. “But the relatives themselves encouraged the prison officials to take unofficial payment…so permission could be granted to visit relatives on prohibited days.”
“To eliminate such allegations…we ordered the prison directors to stop allowing those relatives to see inmates on prohibited days,” he added.
Voeurn Savun, deputy director of Ratanakkiri Provincial Prison, acknowledged yesterday that some prison officials accepted money to allow visits with prisoners, but he claimed the kickbacks were donations.
“Some relatives begged and kneeled before us asking for permission to see their relatives on prohibited days. I have a deep understanding of their situation and allowed them to see [their relatives],” Mr Savun said.
“Some relatives of prisoners volunteered to contributed small amounts of money to help with our high expenditure for treating sick inmates,” he said.
Pen Bonnar, provincial coordinator for local rights group Adhoc, said yesterday that it was common practice for prison guards to ask for money to allow prison visits. One visiting day per week is not enough, Mr Bonnar added.
“Such actions of asking for money from inmates’ visitors should be stopped,” he said. “What we want to see is a big…improvement [where] relatives of prisoners are given more visiting days-not just Friday.”
Mr Savun, the deputy prison director, said he would discuss the possibility of more visiting days with prison director Ngin Ngel.