Opposition leader Sam Rainsy said Sunday he met with jailed dissident Sok Yoeun in Bangkok over the weekend and found him in good spirits, but in failing health.
Sok Yoeun is the only suspect still in jail for a 1998 rocket attack in Siem Reap that the government has characterized as an assassination attempt on Prime Minister Hun Sen.
“I clearly distinguished only two big eyes obsessively fixing on me, which gave me the impression of facing a cat,” Sam Rainsy said of the meeting.
It was the third time that Sam Rainsy had visited Sok Yoeun in the 16 months he has been imprisoned; the Thai government is currently considering a request from the Hun Sen government to extradite Sok Yoeun, 62, to Cambodia to face prosecution.
Sam Rainsy said he was impressed by the 8,000-inmate Lad Yao prison, though he could barely see Sok Yoeun during his visit due to the iron bars and thick glass that separated them during their talk.
Speaking through phones, Sam Rainsy learned that Sok Yoeun’s prison cell is sometimes crowded with up to 53 prisoners.
“Each person has a sleeping space not wider than half a meter,” Sok Yoeun told Sam Rainsy. “We cannot turn our bodies at the same time. We have to do it in turn.”
Sok Yoeun said the other inmates share news with him that they get from Cambodian newspapers.
They also tell him that he should talk to the UN about being transferred to another prison for political prisoners, according to Sam Rainsy.
Since the prison authorities do not allow documents written in Khmer to be passed to the prisoners, Sok Yoeun has not received any letters from his family, which has been relocated to Finland. He has learned that his son-in-law, a Battambang policeman, has been fired from his job.
“He is not very healthy,” Sam Rainsy said. “He is still in high spirits, but I find him a little weak.”
The case goes before the Thai courts in July, when the Cambodian government will make its extradition case again based on what it charges is Sok Yoeun’s confession to the rocket attack.
Sam Rainsy said Sok Yoeun is and old man and in poor health. He suffers from a skin condition that has turned patches of his skin white.
“If there is an organization that wants to kill Hun Sen, why would they send Sok Yoeun?” Sam Rainsy asked. “He is 62 and he has some distinctive white marks. So you can recognize him out of 1,000 people.”
Amnesty International has called Sok Yoeun a prisoner of conscience and has begun a mail campaign to get him released.