Interior Minister Sar Kheng has ordered a thorough investigation into the death of a five-month-old baby girl who was reportedly staying with her mother in Prey Sar’s Correctional Centre 2 in the capital.
“We must investigate this case for sure. There is no need for them [Licadho] to tell us what to do. We will act on it for sure,” he said.“Relevant ministry officials are now looking into alternative solutions to address the problem of prison overcrowding and providing support to female inmates.”
“We are now figuring out a solution. If there is a need for a law, we will request the government to draft one and adopt more laws in order to solve the problem. We must not let the situation continue like this,” he said.
On Tuesday, rights group Licadho said in a statement that the infant died on January 26 from pneumonia and severe malnutrition at the Khmer-Soviet Friendship Hospital.
Licadho noted that the infant’s mother was sent to pre-trial detention in the middle of last year after being charged with possessing a sachet of methamphetamine worth just $2.50.
The woman, the statement added, was eight months pregnant at the time of detention and was not provided with a lawyer and she was unaware of her rights to post bail.
Prior to death, the infant sustained a thighbone fracture due to unknown causes. She was said to have been examined by a medical staff at the CC2 before being transferred to the hospital.
The infant was later transferred to the National Pediatric Hospital and was sent back to prison, along with her mother, after treatment.
Lieutenant General Nouth Savna, the Interior Ministry General Department of Prison spokesman, said yesterday he was told by the CC2 officials the infant suffered a thighbone fracture while another female inmate was babysitting her at the prison’s garden.
“I think it was an unfortunate accident caused by careless babysitting,” he said. “Our prison medical staff have been strictly instructed to pay close attention and take good care of infants and children imprisoned with their mothers.”
Lt Gen Savna said the ministry will investigate the case and take appropriate action against prison officials if they are found to have mistreated the infant and her mother.
Cambodian Human Rights Committee vice-president Chin Malin said yesterday that the committee will provide a lawyer to assist the infant’s mother in bail request. “The committee’s investigation team interviewed all relevant authorities and found out that the infant’s mother did not receive any legal assistance so we will provide a lawyer for her to seek bail and support her,” he said.
According to Licadho, there are currently 103 children and 43 pregnant women incarcerated in the 18 prisons it monitored – a number which has reportedly doubled since January 2017.
It noted that the CC2, the only prison in Cambodia built to hold women and children, currently holds 1,850 detainees despite its official capacity limit of 350 inmates.