Three prisoners have died since March inside Kompong Cham provincial prison, deaths which could have been avoided if prison officials had allowed the inmates to receive medical treatment outside the prison, local human rights group Licadho said Thursday.
“Prisoners are not allowed to go to hospital for treatment, and health workers must treat patients inside their cell,” said Bou Virak, the Kompong Cham provincial coordinator for Licadho.
Such a practice is an abuse of human rights because of the limited supply of medical equipment and drugs inside Cambodia’s prisons, Mr Virak said.
All three prisoners reportedly died from respiratory illnesses, he said, adding that Licadho had not independently investigated the causes of the deaths.
Prisoners at Kompong Cham provincial prison were refused hospital treatment last year after the provincial governor took away their right to go to the hospital after two prisoners escaped while receiving treatment, provincial prison Director Hou Puthvysal said Thursday.
“Sometimes there is one prisoner who dies a year,” he said. “It is not very unusual.” He added, however, that if a particular prisoner was considered seriously ill, he or she would be allowed to go to a hospital.
Heng Hak, general director of the Interior Ministry’s Prisons Department, acknowledged the prison deaths, but said that the three men had probably died due to either tuberculosis or the HIV/AIDS virus contracted before they entered jail.
In 2008, Licadho reported, using its own research, that 39 prisoners had died inside 18 prisons based in provinces and municipalities. The remaining eight prisons in the country do not produce figures on the number of deaths inside their confines since they do not possess administrative offices, according to Licadho.
“Mostly, prison officials claimed the deaths were due to chronic disease,” said Chhiev Huor Lay, a prison researcher at Licadho, adding that his organization has not received official information on the overall death count from the interior ministry’s prison department.