The deaths of two suspects in police custody last week are being investigated following allegations they were tortured to death, authorities in Kandal province and rights workers said Sunday.
Khat Thoeun, 41, died in police custody at Kandal province’s Koh Thom district police station early Wednesday after he was taken from his home for questioning over the theft of a bicycle, said Kim Rithy, deputy chief of the province’s Judiciary Police unit.
The second suspicious death occurred the same day in Kandal Stung district police station, where Pao Rom, 47, was found hanging by the neck after she had been taken into custody for questioning over an alleged plot to steal a neighbor’s money, Kim Rithy said.
Both suspects suffered massive internal injuries and serious burns, said Chan Soveth, head of monitoring for local right group Adhoc.
“Pao Rom’s body had serious bruises on both legs. Her neck was also cracked. Her body seems to have suffered terrible torture,” Chan Soveth said by telephone.
“The other suspect’s body had blood flowing from his ears, eyes, mouth and nose. Particularly, there were bad bruises on his stomach. The victim’s chest was badly burned as well,” he added.
Chan Soveth alleged that Kandal police had resisted his requests for information regarding the deaths and was only able to examine the bodies after police had sent them home for cremation.
“The police officers worked secretly. They did not allow human rights workers to take part in the examination of the bodies,” he said.
The families of the deceased have filed complaints against the police.
Though he denied any wrongdoing based on a report compiled by a police committee, Kim Rithy said he would investigate the allegations of torture against his officers.
The special committee, which included Interior Ministry officers, provincial police, health officials and a court clerk, concluded that police had done nothing wrong, he said.
“Though there were bruises on both of her legs and some other parts of her body, the bruises had no scratches, and there were no cracked bones. This is why we conclude she committed suicide,” he said.
Khat Thoeun died in custody of a heart attack caused by drinking too much alcohol, he added.
Kim Rithy and Koh Thom district deputy police chief Uy Chheang said that bruises on Khat Thoeun’s body came from an attack by villagers who caught him attempting to steal a parked bicycle.
Chan Soveth said villagers denied beating the suspect.