The family of a deceased Prey Sar prisoner is accusing prison guards of having tortured the man to death, a charge the prison director vigorously denies.
Heng Touch, 24, died Friday night after treatment at Monivong Hospital and Calmette Hospital in Phnom Penh. He had been detained at Prey Sar prison following his arrest Aug 26 on suspicion of having stolen a chicken and was awaiting trial, his uncle Theng Kaing said.
“We don’t believe that Heng Touch died from a disease or committed suicide,” Theng Kaing said.
Heng Touch was just mildly ill when his older brother visited him in prison Nov 13, Theng Kaing said. That day, prison guards asked Heng Touch’s brother for $100 to move him to a different room and the brother tried unsuccessfully to obtain a lower price.
“They were probably angry my nephew did not give them money,” Theng Kaing said, adding that his nephew’s body showed serious injuries.
“We suspect that prison guards tortured Heng Touch because his body, face and head were bruised,” he said.
Prey Sar prison Director Mong Kim Heng denied the family’s accusations, saying Heng Touch received the same treatment as other prisoners, including food and health care.
“There is no reason for us to need to torture him,” said Mong Kim Heng, who also denied that guards took bribes to move prisoners.
At about 11:30 pm Nov 14, Heng Touch started having heart problems without apparent reason and was treated at the prison’s health center, Mong Kim Heng said. When he felt better, Heng Touch tried to kill himself by biting his tongue and banging his body and head against the infirmary’s walls, he said. Guards and nurses intervened, but Heng Touch soon tried to hurt himself again, he added.
Heng Touch was sent to Monivong Hospital the next day because his head had swollen, Mon Kim Heng said. After he was transferred to Calmette Hospital two days later, a scanner revealed a broken skull, which doctors could not treat.
The family plans to file a complaint with local rights group Licadho after Heng Touch’s funeral today, but not with local authorities, whom the family does not trust, Theng Kaing said.
Licadho investigator Am Sam Ath said he would look into the case, adding that he’d seen the body and the man’s arms, legs and head were bruised, and his tongue scratched.
“His body seems tortured,” Am Sam Ath said, also faulting the prison director for not having sent the victim to the hospital sooner.
Calmette Hospital Director Heng Taykry could not be reached for comment Sunday.