A group of foreign inmates in Phnom Penh’s Prey Sar prison have circulated a written complaint alleging squalid conditions and corruption at the facility on the outskirts of the city.
In a faxed statement signed simply “The Foreigners,” the prisoners complain of filthy drinking water, bad food, untreated wounds that have become infected, cramped sleeping conditions, and prison guards who have allegedly confiscated their few belongings and then sold them.
“We have nobody to help us,” according to the statement issued by the prisoners, who come from countries that do not have embassies in Cambodia, including Belgium, Taiwan, Italy and Ecuador.
Mong Kim Heng, director of the prison, officially known as CC1, said 127 foreigners from 30 countries are imprisoned at Prey Sar.
Mong Kim Heng admitted that life in the prison is difficult, but he said that the inmates were treated well enough, considering.
He also denied that his guards extort money from the prisoners.
Inmates are given drinking water from a nearby pond, and the prison spends 1,500 riel, or about $0.37, per day for each prisoner’s food, Mong Kim Heng said.
“Prison food is not delicious,” he said, adding “sometimes when your wife cooks you food, you still complain that it is not delicious.”
In Prey Sar, foreign inmates and Cambodian inmates are treated the same, Mong Kim Heng said.
“Foreign prisoners want a prison like in the US and France, where foreigners are treated better.”
Chan Soveth, program officer for local rights group Adhoc, said the prisoners’ complaints were legitimate.
“Conditions at CC1 never change much. The director of prisons told me that they don’t have the budget to make improvements,” Chan Soveth said.
“The water they provide is unsafe,” he said. “Whenever a prisoner needs anything from a guard, they have to negotiate. The prisoners have to buy pure water, medicine, and good food from the guards.”
“The prison kitchen doesn’t clean the vegetables before they serve them. They say they don’t have enough water to clean the food. That’s the way they feed animals.”