The mother of Tieng Narith, a university lecturer sentenced last week to two and a half years in prison for teaching from his own anti-government textbook, has apologized to Prime Minister Hun Sen on her son’s behalf and appealed for his release.
Tieng Narith, who is believed to suffer from mental problems, has been held at Prey Sar Prison since November for teaching from his self-published textbook, which links top government officials to acts of political violence.
“I apologize to Samdech Hun Sen that my son has used vulgar words,” Kong Sophon, 55, said in an interview Thursday.
“My son has difficulties in his mind,” she added. “Since he was jailed, I just cry.”
Tieng Narith, 31, is being held in a 4-by-4-meter cell with 16 other inmates, his mother said.
Chin Lyda, prison program supervisor at the local rights group Licadho, said that, on March 1, he and a Licadho doctor visited Tieng Narith who told them he was suffering from scabies and complained of a headache.
Tieng Narith’s mental health was evaluated prior to his Feb 28 trial, but his family, lawyer and the judge who ruled on his case all say they have not seen the results.
Chin Lyda said that a psychologist visited Tieng Narith two months ago, but that he had not received any mental health care.
Prey Sar Director Mong Kim Heng said that the prison does not have a doctor for mental health, adding that Tieng Narith was not mentally ill and did not have scabies. He also said that the prisoner is in a cell with 12 inmates and that a move to a less-crowded cell was not an option. “The cells are all the same,” he said.
Margo Picken, the country director of the UN center for human rights, said the center is very concerned about Tieng Narith.
“We believe he should be immediately released and given proper care and attention,” she said.
Minister of Information and government spokesman Khieu Kanharith and Hun Sen’s human rights advisor Om Yentieng could not be reached for comment.