Opposition party members will lead a delegation to the doors of Kampong Cham Correctional Centre 3 on Tuesday in the hope of visiting the 23 people imprisoned there following a violent crackdown on striking garment workers in early January.
Despite having previously been denied access to the prisoners, Cambodia National Rescue Party whip Son Chhay said yesterday that he hoped prison authorities would allow the group, which will include six senators and 10 elected MPs, to meet with the detainees.
“I don’t know, but it’s not important to get permission, because we are already planning to go. The family members have the right to see their relatives,” he said yesterday.
“So if we are not allowed to go, the family members will take some reports for us into the prison. But we hope that the man in charge of the prison will allow the senators in at least. As government representatives, they have a right to see them.
“Maybe a senator would be more right [than NGOs] to [secure their release], because they are government members. Maybe they can use their position to guarantee their release,” he added.
Prak Sovannary, imprisoned activist Vorn Pov’s wife, said that repeated requests by politicians and civil society groups had been turned down.
“Over the past few days, the prison has banned civil society groups as well as trade unions from visiting my husband. That reveals clearly it is a suppression of their rights,” she said.
“They are his friends and they want to encourage him, but they are banned instead and the authorities say they are afraid my husband will escape from jail. How can he escape? They all know the law.”
The Cambodian Center for Human Rights and the Cambodian Labour Organisation on Friday sent an open letter to Interior Minister Sar Kheng, appealing for him to intervene after their request to visit the detainees was turned down by the General Department of Prisons.
Prison director Kea Sovanna said yesterday that if the CNRP did not have a letter of permission, he would not allow them to visit the detainees held in Tropaing Phlong jail.
“We allow their families to visit them daily, but they [CNRP members] have nothing to visit,” he said.
Am Sam Ath, a senior investigator with rights group Licahdo, said the repeated requests by civil society and the opposition to visit the prisoners were turned down because the courts were not independent.
“The parliamentarians have the right to visit the detainees, but because the court is not independent and is related to politics, they are always refusing,” he said.
On Saturday, more than 100 youth activists and about 30 monks gathered on Veng Sreng Boulevard, the site of the violence, to hold a vigil in remembrance of the dead. At least four people were killed when military police opened fire after locals blocked the road on January 2 and 3.