B ATTAMBANG - An attempted escape at Battambang jail has prompted guards to keep
all male prisoners locked in their cellblocks 24 hours a day for more than two
Prisoners and human rights workers have told the Post that since
April 18 the jail's 263 male inmates have been kept in their cells and not
visited by a doctor.
The lock up follows an attempted escape by six
prisoners, whom guards discovered had been trying to saw open the wooden bars of
one of the cellblocks. The jail's deputy director, Kong Dy, said two prisoners
had been found hiding saws in their shoes.
Dy claimed the lock up of
prisoners had only lasted one week and involved only the six accused escapees.
He said prisoners were being allowed out of their cells twice a day, from 7:30
am to 9:30 am and from 2 pm to 4 pm. However, during a 3pm visit to the prison
on April 26, the men - except for a few given supervisory duties - were all
locked in their cellblocks.
And as of May 2, local human rights workers
reported the lock up was still in effect, although some prisoners were being
allowed out of their cells for 15 minute periods.
Ok Sean, 33, a prisoner
kept in a 20-metre by 10-metre cellblock with 85 other men, said most of them
were in bad health and had not been allowed to see a doctor.
is not enough. The rice is not enough and they give us spoiled fish," said Sean,
who is awaiting trial for allegedly stealing a moto. He denies the charge.
He said guards have also became concerned about possible violence by
prisoners angry at having to pay cash or cigarettes before being allowed to see
relatives on visiting days - the tenth, twentieth and last day of each month.
Battambang jail uses a system of 'kapos' in which longstanding prisoners
are given a supervisory role over the other prisoners. It is the only jail in
the country to do so. This system was criticised in a recent report by the
United Nations Centre for Human Rights (UNCHR), for contributing to a high level
of prisoner-on-prisoner violence.
Human rights group Licadho says that
in March they discovered a 'kapo' had beaten one prisoner so badly he was
unconscious for several days. They also reported that the technique of locking
prisoners up for extended periods was commonly used at Battambang jail in order
to protect the safety of the 'kapos.'
Licadho says some conditions in
Battambang jail have improved since the UNCHR report earlier this year. Regular
visiting days for relatives were initiated and the jail allowed construction of
a classroom, where one inmate - a former teacher convicted of murder - teaches
others how to read.