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‘Political prisoners’ partitioned in Prey Sar

A vehicle transports Yi Soksan (centre) from Phnom Penh Court to Prey Sar prison last month after he was charged with bribing a witness.
A vehicle transports Yi Soksan (centre) from Phnom Penh Court to Prey Sar prison last month after he was charged with bribing a witness. Hong Menea

‘Political prisoners’ partitioned in Prey Sar

A new set of security measures at Prey Sar prison, designed to stop rampant drug use at the facility, is instead being selectively applied to prisoners being held in a politically sensitive case related to an ongoing sex scandal involving opposition leader Kem Sokha.

Prison authorities have used glass partitions in the visiting area to keep Yi Soksan and Nay Vanda – jailed human rights workers from Adhoc – from having physical contact with their loved ones, the detainees’ families have said, while visitors to other inmates said they had been able to interact freely with those they had come to see.

Nuth Savna, spokesman for the Interior Ministry’s General Department of Prisons, said the partitions stemmed from a policy implemented in recent months to prevent drug exchanges between prisoners and visitors after the government’s own probe found substance abuse was rife in the Kingdom’s jails. He said the partitions were normal procedure for all prisoners.

But at Prey Sar yesterday, several people who had just visited relatives said they were allowed to mingle as they pleased.

“We sit face to face at the same table and can hold and touch each other’s hands,” one woman said. “We even saw one couple kissing.”

But according to their families, Soksan and Vanda – who are being held in CC1, the male section of Prey Sar – the new glass partitions are being used during closely monitored family visits.

According to a source briefed on the situation who spoke on condition of anonymity, the partitions have not been used for Lem Mony, who is in Prey Sar’s women’s section, or Ny Chakrya, a former Adhoc worker turned election official, who is at PJ prison. It was unclear whether they had been used for Ny Sokha, who is also being held in CC1.

Vanda’s wife, Pheav Mey, 41, said she did not know why her family was treated differently. “We are upset that they do not allow us to meet like other people,” Mey said. “Our child cried because she wanted to hug her father, but the prison guard did not allow it.”

San Vanntanakvatey, the daughter of Soksan, said she was also forced to meet her father through the screen.

“They told us that he has not been sentenced, therefore we could not meet face to face, but we know other prisoners who have been there a week who can meet their families directly,” she said.

Human rights lawyer Billy Tai said that the practice of separating some of the group from physical contact from their families appeared, at least in part, to be a form of punishment.

Asked later about the discrepancy, Savna, the prisons spokesman, said he would request an investigation into whether there was discrimination. He said complaints about unfair treatment were welcome.

“The expert group will go and investigate about the issue,” he said.

The five current and former rights workers were detained in April, and have been charged with conspiring to bribe Khom Chandaraty, the alleged mistress of opposition leader Kem Sokha, to deny her affair with the Cambodia National Rescue Party’s acting president.

The case has been widely slammed as politically motivated. In a statement yesterday, Tokyo-based group Human Rights Now (HRN) expressed its grave concern over the group’s detention.

All five of the detainees have been classified as “political prisoners” by rights group Licadho.

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