Former prisoners at Banteay Meanchey Prison in Banteay Meanchey town have accused prison guards of regularly taking bribes from prisoners for preferential treatment.
Saing Ban, a 52-year-old from Battambang province who was detained for more than one month for his involvement in a land dispute, said yesterday his family was forced to pay substantial bribes to prison guards to provide him with food and a decent place to sleep.
“All the prisoners who wanted to stay in the hallway outside the cell had to pay US$150, otherwise they are placed in an overcrowded cell,” he said.
Every time a relative came to visit him, they would have to bribe the guards in order to speak with him, he added.
He claimed officials demanded 15,000 riel ($3.75) for him to speak with a relative for 15 minutes.
“I had to pay for everything in prison, as if I were staying in a rented room,” he said.
Yin Vang, a 49-year-old who was aslo detained in prison for more than a month, said guards demanded $150 for a decent space to sleep.
“I pity the prisoners who have no money to pay the prison officers; they have to sleep in overcrowded cells,” he said.
San Ny, who was installed as prison director nearly one month ago, said he was aware of the problems but insisted that they had been addressed since he took over.
“Since I started working here, it doesn’t happen anymore. Everything has changed,” he said.
Spokesman for the Department of Prisons at the Ministry of Interior, Sorn Keo, said guards found to be taking bribes would be punished.
“We have our own internal regulations in place to punish officers if they [accept bribes],” he said.
Adhoc provincial coordinator Soum Chankea said he had received several complaints from former prisoners alleging guards took bribes.
“They should not use prison as a place to do business. I hope the new prison director will stop this,” he said