The family of a man allegedly detained in Takeo provincial prison for stealing a US$40 water pump are claiming that he died on Sunday at the hands of prison officials.
Sem Nop, 36, told the Post that police contacted him yesterday to visit the prison in order to negotiate the release of his 52-year-old uncle, Kheng Khom, who he said had been detained for the past week.
However, Sem Nop said that when he arrived, prison officials told him that his uncle had died, and he was given the body and 500,000 riel ($125) to assist with funeral costs.
“The prison guard said that my uncle killed himself by running into the wall, but I suspect that he died from torture by prison officials because he had some scars on his body and his face was swollen,” Sem Nop said.
Kheng Khom’s son, Chheng Thai, also alleged that his father had been tortured to death and called the alleged torture an “injustice”.
“He died in prison, and his body had a lot of scars. If nobody tortured him, he wouldn’t have died,” Chheng Thai said.
Prison director Thong Kim Chy denied the accusations yesterday, stating that no prisoner had died under his watch and that no new prisoners had entered the facility recently.
“I have not received any new inmates over the past two weeks,” he said.
However, Bati district police chief Nan Savy confirmed that Kheng Khom had been sent to Takeo provincial prison on January 11, a day after he was arrested for allegedly stealing his brother-in-law’s water pump, a device used for rice farming.
Liv Mauv, director general of the prison department at the Ministry of Interior, said that he had not received any reports of an inmate’s death at Takeo provincial prison.
Chheng Sophors, senior investigator for rights group Licadho, said that he had received a complaint from Kheng Khom’s family and that his office would investigate the issue.
“The prison officers have to be responsible for this issue, even if they are just careless and let the inmate die under their control,” he said.