Former Cambodia National Rescue Party (CNRP) lawmaker Ou Chanrath on Thursday claimed that opposition officials and activists are not enjoying any preferential treatment in Prey Sar Prison after leaks surfaced that Meach Sovannara was in possession of a phone in his cell.
Opposition figure Sovannara has been serving a 20-year jail sentence since 2015, after he was arrested for demonstrating against the government in July 2014, which triggered violent clashes between the police and protestors at Freedom Park.
On July 26, Chanrath and four other members who visited 15 activists in prison after his request was finally approved by authorities, said the facility adopted strict rules for visitors and prisoners.
However, the request to meet former CNRP leader Kem Sokha at the Trapaing Plong Prison located in Kampong Cham province was not granted.
As the prison rules were strict, only four members – Um Sam Ann, Meach Sovannara, Neang Sokhun and Yon Kemhuor – were allowed as visitors but handshakes and direct talks were disallowed as they were shielded by mirrors and iron bars.
He said two sets of laws existed in the prison – for those charged with a felony and political prisoners. For the former, rules were more flexible as families could communicate directly and bring food for the inmates.
“During the visit, I found they are in good spirits and healthy. They also asked me about the status of their case and to help facilitate their release soon,” he said.
The jailed activists are Sam An, Sovannara, Roeun Chetra, Yea Thong, Oue Narin, Khin Roeun (Khin Chamroeun), Sokhun, San Kemheng, Sum Puthy, Ke Khim (Vin Di), Tep Narin, An Pakthorm (Sokhum), San Seyhak, Ouk Pichsamnang and Kemhuor.
Sorn Keo, the spokesman for the General Prison Department under the Ministry of Interior, said he did not know that Chanrath visited the prisoners. However, he confirmed that prison rules were implemented without discrimination against any group or party, and this was to ensure order and security.
Meanwhile, human rights organisation Adhoc spokesperson Soeng Sen Karona said if what Chanrath revealed was true, then it is a discrimination and contradicts the Constitution.
Sam An was detained for a border offence, while Sovannara and 13 other former CNRP activists were arrested for demonstrating to liberate Freedom Park in 2014. They were sentenced in July 2015 and face prison terms ranging from seven to 20 years.