The killing of one inmate by another in a cell containing 32 people on Saturday has highlighted problems within Sihanoukville’s dilapidated prison that have gone largely ignored for years, rights workers and prison officials said Monday.
Poch Mon, 26, is accused of beating Ek Khol to death with a pole used to hold up mosquito netting during a power outage at about 1 am on Saturday. He has told police he killed his cellmate because he was depressed that he didn’t have any visitors.
“It’s quite a problematic prison,” said Naly Pilorge, director of local human rights group Licadho.
In June 1999, 35 convicts escaped from the prison in what was one of the country’s biggest ever jail breaks.
Prison Director Heng Huon said the prison is too old and its cells too crowded to house its 215 inmates.
“I am very concerned about the poor condition of the prison,” he said.
He added that he hopes Poch Mon will be prosecuted for the killing and removed from the prison.
When one prisoner kills another in Cambodia, they are punished by being barred from receiving visitors, said Chhim Ny, director of the Interior Ministry’s prison department.
Other punishments can be meted out, but Chhim Ny said he did not know what they were.
According to a Licadho prison monitor who declined to be named, the prison is separated into three to four rooms, into which prisoners are divided.
Juveniles share cell space with adult prisoners, and people in pre-trial detention sometimes share space with people convicted of serious crimes, the monitor said.
Many prisoners suffer from skin conditions and food shortages, the monitor said, with the government providing only $0.25 per day for each prisoner’s food.
“They have rice and vegetable soup…but the soup lacks vitamins; just some vegetables, salt and sugar,” the Licadho monitor said.
It has an ill-equipped infirmary, and no treatment for mentally ill patients, he added.