Prisoner Jailed for Alleged Land Grabbing Dies

A prisoner arrested last year for alleged land grabbing in Preah Vihear province has died and local human rights advocates blame a lack of health care in prison. 

Yan Sok Kea, 21, had been jailed in Prey Sar prison’s Correctional Center 1 in Phnom Penh. He was treated at Preah Monivong Hos­pital starting April 12 with a high fever, and was transferred Thurs­day to Khmer Soviet Friendship Hospital for more extensive treatment. He died about 2 pm Monday.

Records about what illness killed Yan Sok Kea aren’t available, said Chan Soveth, chief monitor for local rights group Adhoc, but a doctor told his organization that encephalitis might be to blame. His organization decried the prisoner’s death in a statement released Monday.

“Adhoc condemns the delays [in medical treatment] and ignorance…which led to the patient’s death because there was no care,” the statement read.

Chan Soveth said inadequate health care is endemic in Cambod­ia’s detention facilities. “There are lots of [sick] patients, but prison officials just hide the cases,” he said.

The director of Prey Sar’s CC1, Mong Kim Heng, denied this claim, saying that prison officials can’t be blamed for Yan Sok Kea’s death.

“It was not our mistake, because we tried our best efforts to treat him,” he said.

Yan Sok Kea’s mother, Bun Boeun, 43, said in an interview Tuesday that her oldest son was going in and out of consciousness before he died.

“I don’t believe the doctor could not cure my son’s illness, but we did not have [enough] money” to pay for medical treatment, she said.

As it was, the mother of four had sold her farmland in Battambang province to pay for her son’s hospital expenses. Now, that money has run out, and it was for naught, she said.

“It was unjust for the poor,” Bun Boeun said. “Money could have saved my son’s life.”

Yan Sok Kea was among several people arrested in November and charged with illegally grabbing government land in Preah Vihear’s Choam Ksan district. His case had not yet reached trial.

Yan Sok Kea’s family and Adhoc claim that he was innocent of any land grabbing and was in the area as a tourist to visit the nearby Preah Vihear temple.

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