Jailed Villagers in Sam Rainsy’s Case Have Reportedly Fallen Ill

Two imprisoned villagers convicted of damaging border demarcation posts last year in Svay Rieng province while taking part in a demonstration led by SRP Pres­ident Sam Rainsy have fallen ill in jail leaving their family to shoulder the financial burden for their medical care, a human-rights worker said.

A prison official, however, denied yesterday that their health condition was out of the ordinary.

Ngeth Nara, provincial coordinator of local rights group Adhoc, said family members of Meas Srey, 39, and Prum Chea, 41, have told him the health of the pair has worsened since they entered the provincial prison in Svay Rieng city to serve one-year sentences. Ms Srey is reportedly suffering from heart problems while Mr Chea is experiencing pains in his right leg, he reported.

“They were sick when they were outside of prison, and now they are in a bad condition when they stay in prison,” Mr Nara said yesterday. “We are concerned for their health right now. The prison stresses them and causes them to get sick.”

He said the family of Mr Chea has also borrowed an unknown sum of money in order to help feed and treat him inside the prison’s walls.

Arrested and detained since Dec 23, Ms Srey and Mr Chea were each given one year in prison and a combined fine of about $1,250 to be paid jointly with Mr Rainsy. The court also ordered the trio to pay a total of roughly $12,500 for uprooting the six wooden border demarcation stakes in Samraong commune, Chantrea district. Mr Rainsy absconded to France before his trial, during which he was handed a two-year sentence in absentia. It was unknown yesterday whether the opposition party is helping to support Ms Srey and Mr Chea in prison.

Although the court initially charged three other villagers—who went into hiding shortly after the arrest of Ms Srey and Mr Chea-the judge acquitted them during the trial, saying there was no evidence linking them damaging the border stakes.

Svay Rieng prison director Ken Saroeun said the two prisoners were not suffering unduly behind bars.

“They were sick since before they were jailed but for now they are not bad,” he said, adding family members and medical personnel are allowed to see the two.

Family members of the de­tainees could not be reached for comment by telephone.


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