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Logo of Phnom Penh Post newspaper Phnom Penh Post - Complaint to be filed in suspicious prison death

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Funeral preparations for Sok Chanthan, 27, who died in a Banteay Meanchey prison on Saturday under questionable circumstances. RFA

Complaint to be filed in suspicious prison death

A Banteay Meanchey woman is planning to file a complaint against the provincial prison director for his alleged role in the suspicious death of her stepdaughter on Saturday.

Khon Thy said her stepdaughter, Sok Chanthan, 27, had suffered from chronic asthma since she was 7 years old and had depended on an inhaler and medication throughout her life.

After Chanthan received a four-year prison sentence for drug trafficking in 2016, Thy said, she would visit her once or twice each month in prison to deliver her asthma medication.

On May 3, Thy received a distressed phone call from Chanthan’s cellmate, saying that Thy should request permission from Prison Director Um Siphan to take her stepdaughter out of prison for treatment.

“The guard said my daughter just pretended to be sick and that my daughter was the same person who claimed to be sick again and again,” Thy said.

Chanthan died on Saturday morning, though the location of her death is in dispute. Banteay Meanchey Provincial Prison Director Um Siphan could not be reached for comment, but was quoted by Radio Free Asia as saying that Chanthan died after being sent to a hospital.

Prison Department spokesman Nuth Savna said yesterday that the prison director was not responsible for Chanthan’s death, saying a report filed by the prison said she had been moved to a referral hospital.

Moreover, Savna said, Chanthan’s alleged addiction to meth before her imprisonment exacerbated her asthma. “For a prisoner with that kind of condition, the chief of the prison did all that he could,” Savna said.

Thy, however, said that her daughter’s cellmate told her by phone that Chanthan died before being moved to a hospital.

“She told me that my daughter already died [in her hands] before she was taken to hospital by prison officials,” she said.

Thy approached rights group Adhoc on Tuesday for help filing a complaint. “I don’t want other people to meet the same thing,” she said.

Confirming that his organisation would help Thy pursue a case against Siphan, Adhoc’s Banteay Meanchey Provincial Coordinator Sum Chankea said the complaint would allege “unintentional murder”, based on “negligence and not following the regulations”.

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