Logo of Phnom Penh Post newspaper Phnom Penh Post - B'bang prisoners in 24 hour lock-up

B'bang prisoners in 24 hour lock-up

B'bang prisoners in 24 hour lock-up

B ATTAMBANG - An attempted escape at Battambang jail has prompted guards to keep

all male prisoners locked in their cellblocks 24 hours a day for more than two

weeks.

Prisoners and human rights workers have told the Post that since

April 18 the jail's 263 male inmates have been kept in their cells and not

visited by a doctor.

The lock up follows an attempted escape by six

prisoners, whom guards discovered had been trying to saw open the wooden bars of

one of the cellblocks. The jail's deputy director, Kong Dy, said two prisoners

had been found hiding saws in their shoes.

Dy claimed the lock up of

prisoners had only lasted one week and involved only the six accused escapees.

He said prisoners were being allowed out of their cells twice a day, from 7:30

am to 9:30 am and from 2 pm to 4 pm. However, during a 3pm visit to the prison

on April 26, the men - except for a few given supervisory duties - were all

locked in their cellblocks.

And as of May 2, local human rights workers

reported the lock up was still in effect, although some prisoners were being

allowed out of their cells for 15 minute periods.

Ok Sean, 33, a prisoner

kept in a 20-metre by 10-metre cellblock with 85 other men, said most of them

were in bad health and had not been allowed to see a doctor.

"The food

is not enough. The rice is not enough and they give us spoiled fish," said Sean,

who is awaiting trial for allegedly stealing a moto. He denies the charge.

He said guards have also became concerned about possible violence by

prisoners angry at having to pay cash or cigarettes before being allowed to see

relatives on visiting days - the tenth, twentieth and last day of each month.

Battambang jail uses a system of 'kapos' in which longstanding prisoners

are given a supervisory role over the other prisoners. It is the only jail in

the country to do so. This system was criticised in a recent report by the

United Nations Centre for Human Rights (UNCHR), for contributing to a high level

of prisoner-on-prisoner violence.

Human rights group Licadho says that

in March they discovered a 'kapo' had beaten one prisoner so badly he was

unconscious for several days. They also reported that the technique of locking

prisoners up for extended periods was commonly used at Battambang jail in order

to protect the safety of the 'kapos.'

Licadho says some conditions in

Battambang jail have improved since the UNCHR report earlier this year. Regular

visiting days for relatives were initiated and the jail allowed construction of

a classroom, where one inmate - a former teacher convicted of murder - teaches

others how to read.

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