PJ Prison Investigated Over Terrorist Escape

The Interior Ministry has sent recaptured terrorist Som Ek to Prey Sar prison, relocating him from PJ Prison, which officials said on Thursday was under investigation over its suspected complicity in the prisoner’s escape earlier this month.

Mr. Ek was serving more than 40 years in prison for his alleged involvement in bombing cases in Phnom Penh in 2007 and 2009.

Som Ek attends a hearing at the Appeal Court in Phnom Penh in February 2012. (Siv Channa/The Cambodia Daily)
Som Ek attends a hearing at the Appeal Court in Phnom Penh in February 2012. (Siv Channa/The Cambodia Daily)

After falling ill at PJ Prison on October 6, Mr. Ek was sent to the Khmer-Soviet Friendship Hospital for treatment, where family members visited him with cake and rice that had allegedly been spiked. Authorities initially said two prison guards had eaten the food and dozed off, allowing him to escape, but on Tuesday an official said no suspicious substances had been found in the food.

The two guards who allowed the hospital escape have been temporarily suspended.

After evading police for more than two weeks and being placed on Interpol’s most wanted list, Mr. Ek was caught on Wednesday at a pagoda in Siem Reap province, where officials said he was planning to join the monkhood.

Be Tea Leng, deputy director-general of the Interior Ministry’s general department of prisons, said Mr. Ek had been sent to Phnom Penh’s Prey Sar prison rather than back to PJ Prison due to suspicions that prison officials might have been involved in the escape.

“We have changed prisons because the prisoner escaped. So now our authorities are investigating the case because we think that some people helped release him,” he said.

Mr. Tea Leng said police had sent a report to the Phnom Penh Municipal Court to decide whether to prosecute Mr. Ek for his getaway.

He said he had not received any information about what Mr. Ek told police after being arrested, referring questions to National Police spokesman Kirth Chantarith, who could not be reached.

Nouth Savna, a spokesman for the Interior Ministry’s prison department, confirmed that authorities were investigating PJ Prison, but declined to comment on why authorities believed prison officials were in on the escape.

“We are now investigating to find the truth,” he said.

Pech Yon, the chief of PJ Prison, said only that he had been informed of the prisoner transfer and would assist in the investigation.

The government says that Mr. Ek, a former soldier, was the leader of the “Tiger Head” movement, which it described as a terrorist group with intentions to topple the government. Mr. Ek says he and like-minded associates had merely distributed anti-government literature.

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