A 31-year-old inmate who officials said had committed suicide at the Kandal Provincial Prison was in fact beaten to death, and more than 10 inmates are expected to be charged after the investigation is completed early this week, according to a source close to the case.
Long Vanny, 53, the mother of victim Mut Linan, in late December filed a complaint asking the Kandal Provincial Court to investigate the incident, and find the “truth” about what happened to her son. Prison officials had maintained that her son – who had no history of mental illness – had committed suicide by jumping off of a 1.5-metre-high water tank, a cause of death that was not consistent with the severe injuries on her son’s body.
A source speaking on condition of anonymity said the prosecutor had gone to the prison three times and asked the inmates to re-enact what happened. Investigators determined the death was not suicide or an accidental fall, the source said, adding that more than 10 inmates will be charged.
“This was violence, not a suicide,” the source said. The source said those involved will likely face charges of intentional violence resulting in death.
The victim was walking in the cell when he stepped on the foot of another inmate who became angry, prompting the beating, the source said. The victim was initially attacked on the evening of December 15 and again in the early morning on the 16th.
As the victim was being attacked, he fell, hitting his head on the edge of a metal bed frame. As of 7am on December 16, the victim was unconscious, but was still breathing. Those details were corroborated by Yoeun Saroeun, the mother of a witness.
Saroeun said her son told her that those who beat Linan to death were inmates in the same cell. Linan was first attacked at around 6pm on December 15, and her son tried to intervene.
“In the early morning at about 3am or 4am, they beat him again,” Saroeun said her son told her. “This time, my son could not help because those people said they would beat him, too.”
Saroeun said her son told her that the other inmates beat the victim because he didn’t sleep and seemed agitated.
“He walked and stepped on the foot of [another] inmate and they beat him,” she said. “My son said he carried [his] shoes and walked and walked, demanding to go home. My son said they beat him until [he became] unconscious.”
She said her son provided the names of eight suspects to the court and was transferred to another cell for security purposes.
Tin Sochetra, spokesperson for the Kandal Provincial Court, said the prosecutor had not yet charged anyone, but there are “many” witnesses.
Nos Bophal, the lawyer hired by the victim’s mother, declined to comment. Chat Sineang, director of the Kandal Provincial Prison, couldn’t be reached.
Am Sam Ath, of the rights group Licadho, said officials needed to strengthen prison control in order to avoid similar problems.
“If there is fighting in a prison until death . . . the blame and condemnation are on the prison,” he said.