In what appeared to be a first for Cambodia, a foreigner claiming to be an inmate at Phnom Penh’s Prey Sar Prison launched an Internet blog Wednesday from his cell detailing hardships and corruption within the walls of the prison.
The blog, “life in 1 square-meter,” described prisoners crammed so tight in their cells at Prey Sar Correctional Center 1 that they have to sleep “skin to skin,” and medical care is almost nonexistent.
“In there, the prisoners are the doctors,” wrote the blogger, who identified himself only as “Cookie.” “Getting the right medication or treatment is completely impossible & finally concluded that sending a corrupt guard to the pharmacy and practice self-diagnose & treatment is the only way to go.”
Corrupt practices extend beyond the prison’s health care system, Cookie wrote in his blog, atphnom penhprison.blogspot.com, which first appeared Wednesday but had been inexplicably removed from its host site as of late last night.
“Nothing in here is for free,” he wrote. “It starts with your place to sleep, water and from there on, anything [you wish] to have or do, it has a price tag.”
Prisoners, according to Cookie, are not allowed to receive visitors unless they pay the guards “stupid amounts of money,” and even adequate sleeping arrangements come at a cost.
“I paid 20 bucks & got a space on the platform, 1.90 [cm] long and 47.5 cm wide space, with linoleum (wax-cloth) so we don’t have to sleep straight on the concrete,” he writes.
The inmate also describes prisoners watching pornography and using illegal drugs.
“Today is Sunday. That’s equal to rain, which is equal to not being allowed to go outside, which usually means that some for[m] of illegal drug will be consumed in most cells, – to make time pass,” he wrote in an entry dated yesterday.
Although Cookie says he has been incarcerated for about a month, he does not indicate on the blog why he is in prison.
Kuy Bunsorn, director-general of the Interior Ministry’s prison department, said overcrowding and drug use at Prey Sar were “major concerns.”
“Our staff are monitoring goods that are brought in,” he said yesterday.
Srun Leang, director of CC1, denied yesterday that prisoners had inadequate medical treatment.
“We have a doctor here to examine them when they are sick. If they are serious, we will send them to the hospital,” he said.
Mr Leang said he had no knowledge of prisoners using illegal drugs or watching pornography, but he admitted that prisoners on certain days were not allowed to leave their cells.
“On Sundays and holidays, people working here are on holiday, so only half the amount of staff are on guard,” he explained.
Am Sam Ath, monitoring technical supervisor for rights group Licadho, said overcrowding in prisons across the country was a major concern and could lead to serious illness among the prisoners.
“This makes the number of deaths keep increasing,” he said.
Not all of the scenes described in the blog focus on mistreatment and illegal activities. Cookie, whose motto is “learn to like it,” describes how prisoners live together in overcrowded cells using a code of “forgive and forget.”
He posts pictures of a traditional tea-drinking ceremony held for inmates about to have their day in court.
Cookie is also keenly aware of the possible danger of posting his thoughts and observations online.
“Maybe this will only get me into some real trouble…by revealing what they work so hard to keep secret,” he writes.