Phnom Penh’s Por Sen Chey district authorities say they will investigate the death of a mentally ill man at the Prey Speu Social Affairs Centre after his family said they were not immediately informed of his death and that his body had been swiftly cremated on Tuesday at Russey Sanh pagoda.
A family member named the man as Nuon Rotha, 27, from Stung Meanchey commune’s Russey village in the capital’s Meanchey district.
He said the family had sent Rotha to the centre a year ago because he was mentally ill and they could not afford to take care of him.
Relatives rushed to the centre immediately upon receiving the news of his death but, upon arrival, found that Rotha had already been cremated.
“I don’t know what happened. The family couldn’t even ask for the body to be kept for a traditional funeral. We’re not going to just forget about it even though we’re not set on pressing charges,” he said.
He called for an investigation to discover the truth in order for the family to have closure.
A witness who asked not to be named told Fresh News that at 8:40am on Tuesday, Rotha became sick and the centre’s doctor attempted to treat him, but his health only deteriorated.
The centre’s director sent him to Pochentong Referral Hospital, the source said, but doctors pronounced Rotha dead on arrival.
The director of the centre then had the body kept at the crematorium at the pagoda in Dangkor district’s Prey Sar commune.
The witness went out for lunch at 11:50am but, upon arriving back at the pagoda, the body had already been cremated.
Por Sen Chey district police chief Yem Saran told The Post on Wednesday that after he received a request from the victim’s family asking the police to help ascertain the cause of death, he immediately ordered three police officers from Chaom Chao II commune to visit the centre.
He said that the centre was uncooperative with the police when they arrived. When there is any suspicious death, Saran said, an autopsy must be undertaken before allowing the body to be cremated. As such, police would launch an investigation into the case.
“The police haven’t done anything comprehensive yet, because the victim’s family asked us to wait for a seven-day memorial service first."
“The police didn’t go inside. They only stood outside the centre’s wall. The police didn’t manage to talk with anyone or obtain any information, but we will launch an investigation according to our jurisdiction as the law allows,” Saran said.
Phnom Penh Municial Department of Social Affairs director Mom Chandany, who is the director of the Prey Speu Social Affairs Centre, denied the allegations.
“This is totally normal. No one can be aware ahead of time about severe illness, and the doctors said he had a heart attack. After a medical examination, they issued a letter confirming it."
“And we didn’t rush to cremate the body. We are committed to taking care of everyone in the centre."
“First, we sent the patient to get medical treatment and tried to save him. After he passed away, we prepared documents to keep the body at the pagoda, waiting for family members to come. But the crematorium is needed by other people, we cannot keep the body there very long,” she said.