Logo of Phnom Penh Post newspaper Phnom Penh Post - Charges laid over prison death

Charges laid over prison death

The exterior of the Kandal Provincial Prison, where 12 inmates are accused of beating their cellmate to death earlier this month.
The exterior of the Kandal Provincial Prison, where 12 inmates are accused of beating their cellmate to death earlier this month. Heng Chivoan

Charges laid over prison death

Twelve prisoners were yesterday charged over the death of a fellow inmate at the Kandal Provincial Prison, after his alleged killing was initially ruled a suicide.

Mut Linan, 31, was in pre-trial detention for two days in a cell with 73 others when he was allegedly attacked and killed last month. Officials initially told his grieving mother that Linan died after he jumped from a 1.2-metre height – a scenario that seemed at odds with the severity of his injuries.

A court official who asked not to be named yesterday said prisoner Moeun Hoeun, who had been assigned as a kind of “security guard” in the cell, allegedly “gave an order to the other prisoners to beat the victim” because Linan was shouting and Hoeun couldn’t sleep.

Three suspects named Seng Da, Leng Rith and Samal Uddom then allegedly assaulted the victim, beating him to the point of unconsciousness. Seven other prisoners allegedly took part in the violence, but it is believed they did not lay the final, fatal blows.

The official said another prisoner, Mok Nuon, was assigned to be the chief of the cell, an unofficial role that requires alerting prison guards stationed 10 metres away to any problems. Instead, Nuon allegedly sat back and watched.

According the official, Nuon also concocted the cover story that Linan had “fallen” from the top of a water tank. He also allegedly told the three key attackers to bring him $500 each and he would make the case go away.

Prosecutor Ek Sun Reaksmey yesterday said Hoeun was charged with instigating intentional violence resulting in the death of the victim, along with Da, Rith and Uddom. They face between seven and 15 additional years in prison if convicted. Nuon was charged as an accomplice to the same crime.

The seven other prisoners were charged as accomplices to intentional violence, and face between one and three years behind bars.

Nut Savna, spokesman for the General Department of Prisons, said the inmates must take “criminal responsibility for what they have done” and that “if the prison officials were involved, we will take action accordingly”.

“The prison must strengthen the internal rules and ensure prison officials . . . are careful when assigning security guards,” he said.

Kandal Provincial Prison Director Chat Sineang claimed he had already bolstered prison discipline by reminding prisoners, each Saturday, what to do when fights break out.

“If there is a quarrel, they have to shout and hit a bucket in order that we go in to intervene,” he said.

“I am the prison chief, how can I go to sleep in the cell with detainees? . . . We were not careless, but I accept that it is under my management.”

But rights advocates said the practice of assigning inmates to be unofficial security guards and chiefs over their peers was fraught, as they lacked accountability.

Chak Sopheap, from the Cambodian Center for Human Rights, said she welcomed responsibilities being given to prisoners to help them reintegrate into society, but protecting the safety of inmates was the sole duty of the state.

“Such duty . . . can never be delegated to non-state actors, including prisoners; doing otherwise could [pave] the way for abuses,” she said in an email.

The victim’s mother, Long Vanny, said her son’s death “should never have happened”, noting that he was in jail awaiting trial for the minor crime of property damage.

“I really regret his death . . . They should strengthen the regulations in the prison so something like this cannot happen again.”

Additional reporting by Erin Handley

MOST VIEWED

  • Hong Kong firm done buying Coke Cambodia

    Swire Coca-Cola Ltd, a wholly-owned subsidiary of Hong Kong-listed Swire Pacific Ltd, on November 25 announced that it had completed the acquisition of The Coca-Cola Co’s bottling business in Cambodia, as part of its ambitions to expand into the Southeast Asian market. Swire Coca-Cola affirmed

  • Cambodia's Bokator now officially in World Heritage List

    UNESCO has officially inscribed Cambodia’s “Kun Lbokator”, commonly known as Bokator, on the World Heritage List, according to Minister of Culture and Fine Arts Phoeurng Sackona in her brief report to Prime Minister Hun Sen on the night of November 29. Her report, which was

  • NagaWorld union leader arrested at airport after Australia trip

    Chhim Sithar, head of the Labour Rights Supported Union of Khmer Employees at NagaWorld integrated casino resort, was arrested on November 26 at Phnom Penh International Airport and placed in pre-trial detention after returning from a 12-day trip to Australia. Phnom Penh Municipal Court Investigating Judge

  • Angkor Beer, 30 Years of Prestige and Still Counting

    Let’s celebrate 30 years of prestige with Angkor Beer. In this 2022, Angkor Beer is 30 years old and has been staying with Cambodian hearts in all circumstances. Head of core beer portfolio, EmYuthousaid, “We have been with Cambodians for three decades now. We, ANGKOR Beer, pride

  • Sub-Decree approves $30M for mine clearance

    The Cambodian government established the ‘Mine-Free Cambodia 2025 Foundation’, and released an initial budget of $30 million. Based on the progress of the foundation in 2023, 2024 and 2025, more funds will be added from the national budget and other sources. In a sub-decree signed by Prime Minister Hun Sen

  • Two senior GDP officials defect to CPP

    Two senior officials of the Grassroots Democratic Party (GDP) have asked to join the Cambodian People’s Party (CPP), after apparently failing to forge a political alliance in the run-up to the 2023 general election. Yang Saing Koma, chairman of the GDP board, and Lek Sothear,