All 842 prisoners evacuated from Banteay Meanchey provincial prison after water pressure caused a wall to collapse in early October will be sent back there next week – despite only minimal repairs having been undertaken to the flood-damaged building, a rights worker said yesterday.
Som Chankea, provincial coordinator for rights group Adhoc, told the Post that some prisoners had been returned to clean out waterlogged cells.
“Government agents should open their eyes and not turn a blind eye. Or do they want to change the name of [Banteay Meanchey prison] to the ‘flooded prison?’” Chankea said.
Those prisoners who had returned, Chankea added, had discovered that prison staff had burned their personal items such as clothing, mats, blankets and other paraphernalia.
“They should not have burned these items because some of them are necessary [for inmates], especially for those prisoners sentenced for five to 10 years.”
Hin Sophal, director of the prison, said a request for buses to transport the evacuees back to Banteay Meanchey prison next week had been submitted and was awaiting approval.
“Concerning the items of the prisoners, what was saved from the water that couldn’t be used was burned. We have kept what could still be used,” Sophal said, adding that relevant officials have already repaired and cleaned the flooded cells.
Sharon Critoph, a prison consultant for rights group Licadho, said inmates should be the last to shoulder fiscal losses caused by prison officials.
“Prison authorities bear full responsibility for any property lost or damaged due to the floods,” she said.
In its fifth report on the flood situation, released on October 30, the Humanitarian Response Forum – a network including the United Nations and NGOs – found that recent flooding has affected more than 1.7 million people and led to188 deaths.
The government will give $250 to the families of each person who died in the floods, reports published last week by government news agency Agence Kampuchea Presse said.
ADDITIONAL REPORTING BY AMELIA WOODSIDE