Confinement in Cambodia’s notorious Prey Sar prison is like “being in hell,” with widespread drug use common and prisoners subject to overcrowding and beatings, a former prisoner told RFA after being released last month.
“Living in the prison is like living in hell,” Kong Raya, 25, said on Feb. 22 after serving a one year and six-month prison term for urging a popular uprising against the ruling Cambodian People’s Party (CPP) in a Facebook posting.
“Prisoners sleep on top of each other, with at least 30 people packed into each small cell, and they smoke hundreds of cigarettes a day, with everyone forced to breathe the smoke,” Kong Raya said, adding that drug use and gambling on football are common throughout Prey Sar.
Other prisoners told him that the drugs used in Prey Sar cost ten times what they would outside the prison, Kong Raya said.
“Prisoners can’t bring drugs into the prison, though, because they are strictly searched when they arrive. So who is bringing these drugs into Prey Sar?” he asked.
Electronic jamming throughout Prey Sar meanwhile floods the prison with strong signals and leaves many suffering with headaches, Kong Raya added.
“I strongly urge the Ministry of Interior to remove this equipment,” he said.
‘No ill effect’
In a March 2 statement, the ministry’s prisons department rejected Kong Raya’s allegations, saying the jamming system has no ill effect on prisoners’ health and is aimed only at blocking their use of mobile phones.
“[Prey Sar’s] correction program, discipline, food, security, safety, hygiene, and health are based on United Nations standards, the Cambodian constitution, and Cambodia’s 2011 Law on Prisons,” the ministry said in its response.
Inmates at Prey Sar routinely endure poor food, brutal punishment, crowded space, and squalid living conditions, sources have said in earlier reports. Prisoners must also bribe guards if they want to make legal filings, sources say.
Inmates in Cambodian prisons who break prison rules are often shackled or beaten, the London-based Institute for Criminal Policy Research said in a 2014 report.
New prisoners are often subjected to initiation beatings carried out by other inmates under the orders of the guards, the rights group said.