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

  • Ministers to tackle sea pollutants

    Preah Sihanouk provincial authorities and members of local communities have collected 77 tonnes of water hyacinth at a Sihanoukville beach, Preah Sihanouk Provincial Hall spokesperson Or Saroeun said. He told The Post yesterday that the aquatic weeds had been floating along some of the province’s

  • EU timber deal in firing line

    A committee of more than 20 national and international organisations filed a petition to the EU on October 10 to prevent it from signing a timber trade agreement with Vietnam, noting that the deal would be disastrous to the Kingdom’s forests. The petition claims Vietnamese timber

  • Kim Sok to keep up fight ‘for change’ from Finland

    Kim Sok, wanted by the Kingdom’s authorities for defaming the government, reiterated on Sunday his determination to continue helping to make “a real change” to Cambodian politics after receiving asylum in Finland, even as a government spokesman mocked the political analyst over the development.

  • Government urges end to wildlife trade

    Interior Minister Sar Kheng said on Friday that the Kingdom had fallen victim to wildlife trafficking and called on relevant parties in Cambodia and beyond to help stop the crime. Speaking at the 4th Illegal Wildlife Trade conference attended by leaders from more than 80 countries