Prime Minister Hun Sen said yesterday that the Prey Sar prison director should be fired because the former director of the now-dissolved CNRP’s information department, Meach Sovannara, was able to gain access to a mobile phone while behind bars.
Speaking yesterday during a graduation ceremony in Phnom Penh, Mr Hun Sen ordered the Ministry of Interior to look into the case.
“Come and take the phone away from Meach Sovannara. Why does Meach Sovannara have this phone? You have to take it away right away,” he said. “Sovannara may be listening [to me] because the phone is connected to the internet.”
“Look at the prison director, if you cannot control people in the prison, the prison director must be fired,” Mr Hun Sen noted. “Why do you allow Meach Sovannara to talk on the phone every day? Now, if he still uses it, I have to fire you.”
“I want to tell you that you must stay in prison forever because your boss is very stupid,” Mr Hun Sen added, addressing Mr Sovannara and referring to former opposition leader Sam Rainsy.
Mr Sovannara was arrested in November 2014 for his involvement in violent clashes with Daun Penh district security forces at Freedom Park in July 2014. He was sentenced along with two others to 20 years in prison for insurrection.
In January this year, Mr Sovannara wrote a letter to Mr Hun Sen on his wedding anniversary in an apparent bid to secure a reduction in his 20-year prison sentence.
“Highly respected Samdech! Prisoners of conscience are like a poor bird in a cage waiting for someone with divine power,” he wrote.
Am Sam Ath, a senior investigator with Licadho, said that prisoners are banned from using mobile phones, and that landlines are available for them to contact their family members.
“However, this case has still happened even though they have internal regulations. Prisoners who can get access to a mobile phone is very serious issue. If those prisoners are drug smugglers, they can continue their business inside the prison,” Mr Sam Ath said.
Nouth Savna, spokesman and deputy director-general for the Ministry of Interior’s General Department of Prisons, said that the department sent an inspection officer to investigate Prey Sar prison following Mr Hun Sen’s order.
“If we find an official that allowed Mr Sovannara to use the phone, he could face a penalty, but I cannot tell you now because we have not gotten any result yet,” he said.
“Normally, we always go down to investigate inside the prison, but because the prison is housing about 6,000 prisoners, we may miss one or two cases,” he added.