KOMPONG SPEU - One prisoner is dead, seven more hospitalized, and ninety percent
of the rest of the prison population here are sick after being fed rancid rice and
weak soups for months.
Prisoners are suffering from many diseases, including beri-beri and tuberculosis
from which 36-year-old Va Sarin died on Sept 28 - but all are worsened by chronic
Kompong Speu provincial authorities had privatized the prison food contract in May
to two businessmen at, according to figures calculated by the Post, around $1,000
Hospital and provincial government authorities were told repeatedly of an "impending
disaster" at the prison but seemed to do nothing.
Local human rights NGOs have also been heavily criticized by their ineffective actions
while conditions in this previously unheralded prison worsened.
General Nga Seng Heng of the Ministry of Interior, who is in charge of prisons, visited
Kompong Speu earlier this month after being made aware of the situation and he ordered
the food contract canceled.
However, in developments this week, the Post has learned that the food contract has
not been canceled.
Also, of the seven prisoners visited by the Post in hospital on Oct 9 and 10, six
have been ordered back to prison because hospital chiefs say they have been faking
A doctor from the International Red Cross has confirmed the diagnosis that they are
suffering from advanced malnutrition, as well as other diseases.
Prison director Sam Samon said 75 of the 84 prisoners were sick. One human rights
worker said that many are unable to walk, and the Post witnessed prisoners who were
partially or totally blind, and very weak.
The United Nations Center for Human Rights (UNCHR) has requested the World Food Program
(WFP) provide food, which WFP has agreed to do for 40 days.
However, the prison is believed not to have enough money to buy firewood to cook
WFP's raw rice and fish, because they are still paying for the contractors' food.