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Logo of Phnom Penh Post newspaper Phnom Penh Post - Prisoner perk claims denied

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An exterior shot of the Khmer-Soviet Friendship Hospital in Phnom Penh, where rich prisoners are accused of booking rooms to rest while serving time in Prey Sar prison. Eliah Lillis

Prisoner perk claims denied

In the wake of recent allegations in local media that tycoons detained at Prey Sar prison are being sent to the Khmer-Soviet Friendship Hospital as a holiday from prison life, the Ministry of Interior’s General Department of Prisons has sought approval to transfer sick prisoners to a police hospital in the capital instead, an official said yesterday.

The prisons department on Wednesday also released a letter saying that the department is only following the Prisons Law, which requires severely ill prisoners to be transferred to a hospital. Prisoners are only transferred with the prosecutors’ approval, the letter states.

Nouth Savna, spokesman and deputy director-general for the prison department, yesterday denied the allegations that rich prisoners get transferred to the Khmer-Soviet Friendship Hospital to relax.

However, he said the department requested and was granted approval to use the 16 Ouksaphea Hospital a police hospital run by the Ministry of Interior’s Department of Logistics and Finance instead of the Khmer-Soviet Hospital, with which the department had an agreement to transfer ill prisoners.

The facilities are still being prepared at the 16 Ouksaphea, and it’s unknown when it will be able to accept prisoners, Savna said, acknowledging the move was tied to the accusations.

“There are too many allegations from people,” he said. “We’ll try to make sure that everybody gets fair treatment.”

Several Khmer-Soviet employees yesterday confirmed convicted tycoons Sok Bun, Thong Sarath and former Bavet governor Chouk Bandith had been brought to the hospital in the past, but they didn’t know for what conditions nor for how long they had stayed at the facility. One employee, who declined to give his name, said he didn’t know if the hospital provided them a “VIP” room.

In January 2016, Bun, who was sentenced to three years in prison for the savage beating of television star Ek Socheata, was admitted to the Khmer-Soviet Friendship Hospital for “stress” and “heart problems”.

Khmer-Soviet Friendship Hospital director Ngy Meng yesterday denied allegations of preferential treatment for wealthy prisoners, but didn’t answer questions regarding the tycoons and their ailments.

He added that his “hospital is not a place for anyone to relax”.

“[It is] only for patients to be treated and admitted by a doctor,” he said.

Naly Pilorge, deputy director of advocacy at rights group Licadho, said that it is difficult to get normal inmates diagnosed and treated outside prison.

“We question some of the prisoners as to whether or not they are sick, and why others, who are really sick, are transferred to the hospital really late,” she said.

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