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Logo of Phnom Penh Post newspaper Phnom Penh Post - Tetanus thought to be culprit in prison death

Tetanus thought to be culprit in prison death

Rights group Adhoc is investigating the case of a 32-year-old man who died on Wednesday night while in pretrial detention in Ratanakkiri.

Chhay Thy, provincial coordinator for Adhoc, said yesterday that the death marks the second time since 2012 that a suspect in that provincial prison has died at the hospital. He did not say whether the first case also involved pretrial detention, a practice that has drawn scrutiny from the Ministry of Justice.

“They sent the prisoner, who was seriously sick, to the provincial hospital intentionally so they would die at the hospital, better than to die in the prison,” Thy said.

Thy plans to meet with prison officials soon and to talk with inmates.

Ratanakkiri provincial prison chief Tin Sovanny said yesterday that the detainee, Kim Sun, was sent to jail back in May after being accused of intentionally murdering his older brother. He had convulsed before, but not heavily, and prison officials were able to treat him, Sovanny said. This time was different.

“We sent him to hospital immediately when he had a high temperature and convulsions,” Sovanny said, adding that though the hospital did not send back a report, he suspects Sun had tetanus, which can result in body spasms.

Sovanny said he sent a letter to the provincial prosecutor requesting Sun’s release, but it was too late. He gave the body to the family.

But Hing Phan Sakunthea, director of the prison, suggested the cause might have been malnutrition or mental illness. He also said that Sun had asked to go home.

“His disease was serious before he was sent to our hospital,” he said,

Phen Dyna, Ratanakkiri province’s deputy police chief, said yesterday that he checked the victim’s body in case he had been beaten, but couldn’t find any signs of foul play.

“As I know, the victim has been sick for a long time,” Dyna said.

According to Licadho, pretrial detainees make up more than 60 per cent of Cambodia’s prison population.

Rules to limit their stays behind bars have not been widely adopted.

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