The General Department of Prisons (GDP) issued a May 26 statement acknowledging that there had been a violent incident between prisoners at Correctional Centre I, commonly known as Prey Sar Prison, after a video of the violence circulated on social media.

The fight, between two Cambodian inmates and a Chinese prisoner, took place on April 5.

The statement said the video had been circulated by individuals who wanted to discredit the GDP, using stolen footage.

“The GDP called on the public to cooperate with the GDP by not sharing information that could be taken out of context or used to besmirch the reputation of any state institution,” it added.

The GDP also acknowledged that some prisoners secretly possessed phones, which was a challenge in all prisons around the world.

“The brawl, between Chrek Phanna, 35, and Sorn Sovannara, 36, and Chinese man Ly Xu Jai, broke out due to a misunderstanding. The Chinese inmate did not speak Khmer well, and a misunderstanding occurred when Sovannara believed he had been insulted. The three have since reconciled their differences,” said the GDP.

Human rights group Adhoc spokesman Soeng Sen Karuna said that prisoners may have forfeited their freedom, but are entitled to have their security, safety and physical health protected by the prison guards and their management.

He added that prison officials should bear full responsibility for any injuries or deaths that occurred to prisoners in their custody.

“There should be a thorough investigation of this incident. Violence between prisoners violates the rules and principles of prison,” he continued.

He said prison authorities should conduct regular inspections to guarantee the safety of the inmates who are in their care.

“This is a human rights issue. It is the responsibility of the state to prevent such violence,” he said.