The head of the country’s largest prison for women has been accused of widespread corruption, including extorting large sums in exchange for moving inmates to new cells and pocketing state money intended for upkeep of the jail, according to an anonymous complaint released by the Anti-Corruption Unit (ACU).
The complaint, dated October 19, was posted to the ACU’s website along with a letter of denial from Khlot Dara, director of Prey Sar prison’s Correctional Center 2 (CC2) in Phnom Penh.
Mr. Dara is accused of demanding between $100 to $500 from inmates if they want to change to cleaner or larger cells, siphoning between 10 million riel ($2,500) to 15 million riel ($3,750) of the government’s monthly budget for the prison, demanding 32,000 riel (about $8) per visit, and pocketing the salaries of nine employees who had not worked at the prison since 2011.
Mr. Dara could not be reached for comment, but in his letter to the ACU he said the claims were erroneous.
“The stealing of the prison’s budget from 10 million riel to 15 million riel is not true. On the contrary, we offered food and other supplies for the prisoners before the state budget arrived” each month, Mr. Dara said in the letter.
“We do not require the families to pay 32,000 riel, but our unit asks them to pay a 2,000 riel [about $0.50] fee for visiting their relatives,” he added.
Mr. Dara also denied charging prisoners to move to a new room and pocketing the salaries of former employees.
Khun Sambor, director of the ACU’s investigation department, said he still believed Mr. Dara was guilty.
“I think that Mr. Khlot Dara really committed a crime, but we are not able to find him guilty,” he said. “If he did not commit the crime, why did they file the complaint against him?”
Mr. Sambor said the ACU would launch a full investigation into Mr. Dara if compelling evidence came to light.
Prey Sar’s women’s wing has had a number of high-profile inmates in recent years, including numerous land rights activists and senior opposition lawmaker Mu Sochua.
Anti-eviction activist Yorm Bopha, who was incarcerated in CC2 after her arrest in 2012 on charges that rights groups say were meant to silence her, said she regularly saw money changing hands for visits and new cells.
“I stayed in the prison for several months and I saw that if families paid 20,000 [about $5] riel for visiting one prisoner they can take a long time to talk, but some families are poor, so they paid 2,000 riel but were only able to take 10 minutes to talk,” Ms. Bopha said.
“I never saw Mr. Khlot Dara take money from the prisoners, but I saw his officials charge prisoners money if they wanted to change their rooms because their rooms smelled bad or they wanted to get a larger room,” she added.
Be Tea Leng, director of the Interior Ministry’s prisons department, said he was unaware of the allegations against Mr. Dara, but would send officials to investigate the prison.
“I am not sure Mr. Dara really committed the crime, but I think that maybe his officials filed a complaint against him because they are not happy with their boss,” he said.