More than 100 people died in Cambodian jails in 2005, almost double the 55 recorded in 2004, mostly from lack of clean water, food and medical care, local rights group Adhoc said on Thursday.
Increasing numbers of prisoners are held in dilapidated structures, crowded into tiny cells and fed only $0.25 worth of food per day, the same amount spent on food since 1994, Adhoc President Thun Saray said at a conference organized by the US-funded National Democratic Institute.
“The price of food increases,” Thun Saray said. “There are shortages of medicine for treatment as well.”
He added that many prisoners are forced to bathe in and drink pond water, which exacerbates already dangerously poor hygiene.
Interior Ministry Prison Department Director Kuy Bunsorn said that fewer than 30 prisoners died in 2005, including those who were shot dead during a mass prison break in Kompong Cham province.
“I acknowledge that there are increased numbers of prisoners in prisons nationwide, which is our biggest concern,” Kuy Bunsorn said. “But the report is wrong.”
Thun Saray also said that prisons should be places to educate people rather than to punish or take revenge on them, because most prisoners will have to be reintegrated into society once they have served their terms. “Only one or two prisoners among a hundred are sent to prison for life,” Thun Saray said. “It is an educational center in order to teach culprits to be good people.”
He added that new prisoners are often beaten by other inmates but are too afraid for their safety to file complaints.
“I have never received any report from any prison director in the nation dealing with beatings,” Kuy Bunsorn said. “Those victims can file complaints if they were beaten.”
He added that a proposal to increase prisoners’ per diem food allowance to $0.37 or $0.50 was sent to the Finance Ministry in mid-2005.