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Ratanakkiri prison director accused of abuses

Dozens of officials at Ratanakkiri Provincial Prison have called for the director of the facility to be removed, citing a wide range of violations, including having sex with a female inmate, permitting unsanctioned prison labour and pocketing money paid in exchange for benefits.

The four-page complaint, which was signed by 32 of the prison’s staff on December 6, calls on the Interior Ministry’s general department of prisons (GDP) to investigate and ultimately dismiss Tin Sovanny.

Among issues detailed in the complaint are claims that Sovanny allowed 65 inmates to work outside of the prison as chefs and in other trades, and used female prisoners to clean his own home and serve as waitresses at weddings.

The officials also accused Sovanny of having sex with one female inmate on multiple occasions, with payment made at least once.

“The prisoners were allowed to use mobile phones, [and they could] change rooms from block B to block A by paying from $200 to thousands of dollars, according to whether they were rich or poor,” the complaint adds.

“He collected electricity fees from the cells equipped with TVs and fans of 500,000 to 600,000 riel [around $123 to $148] per month [and kept it] for himself.”

One of the officials who filed the complaint said in an interview yesterday that Sovanny had a hot temper and frequently bullied and threatened his staff.

“He looked down on us, threatened to fire and jail us,” said the official, who declined to be named. “He serves only his family’s interest.”

Chhay Thy, provincial coordinator for the rights group Adhoc, said he received a complaint from an inmate’s relatives earlier this year alleging that they had to pay $20 for each visit.

“Outside of the complaint, we have heard that 10,000 to 20,000 riel [$2.50 to $5] is demanded for prison visits. Demanding money has become a culture and habit across [prisons in] Cambodia,” he said.

Sovanny was promoted to the role of prison director in 2014 after a number of inmates escaped while working outside of the facility under then-director Ngin Nel. Nut Savana, spokesman and deputy director of the GDP, said the department was investigating the claims.

“A team has gone there; the result will be known on Monday [today] and appropriate measures will follow,” he said.

Sovanny said he was too busy to comment yesterday.

A separate senior official, who declined to be named, dismissed the accusations as a smear campaign.

“It is aimed at damaging his reputation,” he said. “I am not just taking my boss’s side – [the complainants] want benefits since they believe that the boss gets more benefits. Another thing is it’s a power struggle.”

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