Skin Disease Rampant in New Prison, Says NGO

Inmates interviewed at a new Banteay Meanchey province pri­son are suffering from skin rashes and scabies infections over much of their bodies, conditions they say have spread throughout the entire prison population as detainees are still unable to wash regularly, according to the local rights group Adhoc.

“Their faces and their entire bodies are seriously infected with scabies,” said Soum Chamkea, provincial coordinator with local rights group Adhoc, adding that he believes the infections have spread to 95 percent of the prison population.

“They shower once every two to three days,” he said. “Their situation is much worse than animals.”

The prison’s director on Thurs­day confirmed that some inmates had contracted scabies but he said the contagion was confined to only a few inmates.

Scabies is a highly contagious parasitic infection caused by skin infestations of the microscopic human itch mite. It can spread rapidly in crowded conditions that exist in prisons, according to the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

The new prison, which opened on May 27 in Serei Saophoan district’s Toek Thla commune, re­places an older prison in O’Ambel commune.

Prison Director Nuon Vanna said Thursday that the new, 17-building complex now has a de­tainee population of 575 inmates, of whom 44 prisoners are women. Nine children have followed their convict mothers to the prison, he said.

The prison has now been connected to a supply of clean water but still lacks plumbing in individual cells and bathrooms, he said.

“Only about a dozen prisoners are infected with scabies and rashes resulting from the water shortage,” he said. “We are hoping to have a clean water supply by tomorrow.”

The 4.5-hectare prison complex was constructed as part of a land-swap deal in which the previous 3.5-hectare location was ceded to the construction contractor Ly Uth Ly, according to the prison director.

Contact information for the company was not available on Thursday.

“Although we do not have a surplus supply of water and food, prisoners have adequate water to eat and drink,” he maintained.


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