The number of inmates who died in the country’s prisons in the first quarter of the year dipped to nine from 15 during the same period last year, a rights group and the prison department said.
From January to April, nine prisoners—five men and four women—reportedly died in prison. Phnom Penh’s Correctional Center 2 saw two deaths, as did Banteay Meanchey provincial prison, according to Am Sam Ath, technical supervisor for the rights group Adhoc.
Mr. Sam Ath said that during the same period last year, 15 inmates died in the 18 prisons monitored by the group.
Be Tealeng, chief of the executive office of the General Department of Prisons confirmed the figures, saying that high blood pressure, stroke and heart attack are the leading causes of death.
Mr. Tealeng added that lack of exercise has contributed to the death rate, and said the department is taking pains to make sure the inmates spend enough time staying fit.
“Most of the deaths are caused by chronic disease that the prisoners had before they were put in prison,” said Mr. Tealeng. “We are making sure that the inmates are allowed to exercise…. Before they just ate, slept and stayed inside, which could cause those diseases.”
But Mr. Sam Ath said that overcrowding has been a major contributor to the deaths.
“We have seen that the prisons are overcrowded and very stuffy. That leads to respiratory problem, stress, stroke and heart attack,” he said, noting that the cause of death is never provided.
“We are not allowed to be involved in the process of autopsy,” he said.
Kea Sovanna, director of Correctional Center 3, said that prisoners who died frequently suffered chronic ailments.
“They had chronic disease such as AIDS and TB before they were put here,” he said.
“Here one to two people die every year. It’s common, you can’t avoid that,” he added. “People die even outside prison.”