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Prison department dismisses rights violations report

Ben Sokhean / Khmer Times Share:
Prisons are overcrowded with detainees awaiting trial over drugs. KT/Pann Rachana

The General Department of Prisons has dismissed a report made by rights group Licadho which claimed there are violations of basic human rights in the Kingdom’s prisons.

Licadho on Monday released a summary of its report titled “Life in Prison: A Mother’s Story”, along with a video of interviews it conducted, and claimed life is extremely harsh for people incarcerated in the prisons.

“Violations of basic human rights such as denial of access to food, clean water, time outside cells and legal representation occur on a mass scale and the realities of prison life are such that if prisoners do not have money to pay for these basic necessities, then they will go without,” it noted.

A former detainee on a drug charge told Licadho that she eats less nutritious food and has less times outside the prison cell. She claimed that during her pregnancy she didn’t receive proper healthcare.

According to Licadho, there are currently more than 29,000 prisoners incarcerated in the 18 prisons that it monitors.

In a statement issued Tuesday night, the GDP said that Licadho’s summary does not reflect the real situation in the Kingdom’s prisons.

“Recently, Licadho produced a video and publicly shared the problem raised by a woman who claimed to be a former prisoner,” the statement said. “It does not reflect a true picture about the general situation of prison management across the country.”

The statement said that the GDP takes care of all inmates, noting that it  work transparently and responsibly. It added that the summary and video document made by Licadho affects the partnership between GDP and the NGO.

“In order to continue the spirit of partnership, Licadho should raise issues that it considers necessary and needs to discuss them with relevant partners before publishing a one-sided opinion,” the statement said. “GDP calls Licadho to reconsider its activities and return to cooperate as a development partner [with GDP] in order to promote effective work and basic rights and healthcare of detainees based on the principle of equality and equity.”

Lieutenant General Nuth Savana, GDP spokesman, on Monday acknowledged there is crowding in prisons due to drug charges and people being put into pre-trial detention. However, he did not side with Licadho over rights abuses.

Am Sam Ath, Licadho’s deputy director of monitoring, yesterday said they did not have any bad intention regarding the report.

He said the video documentary was made to mark an international campaign promoting 16 days of activism against gender based violence from November 25 to December 10.

“Actually, our video documentary was made to support the campaign against violence on women and children, and showcase the difficulties of female detainees while they are in the prison, especially pregnant detainees and those who have children with them,” Mr Sam Ath said.

He expressed his gratitude to GDP, which previously cooperated with and facilitated visits to prisons for medical and legal officers from Licadho to provide treatment and consultations to detainees.

He added that it was not necessary to consult with GDP before releasing the report.

“The video reflects the true story of detainees who described the difficulties of life in the prison,” Mr Sam Ath said. “It is not about Licadho’s perspective at all.”

GDP director-general General Chan Kimseng in March issued the department’s annual report and said 31,686 people were detained in prisons, including 1,262 foreigners, last year.

He said nearly 3,000 of the detainees were women and more than 3,000 were juveniles, noting that there were 50 pregnant inmates and 135 women living with their children in prison.

“Most detainees, or 55.37 percent, were in prison for drugs,” Gen Kimseng added.

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