A Trapaing Thlong prison officer in Kampong Cham was last week accused of demanding $150 to release a prisoner who had fully served his 10-year term, a charge the prison’s director rejected yesterday.
Inmate Kang Sopheap’s prison term for robbery officially ended on October 24, but he remains in custody because his family is unable to pay the $150 demanded by a prison official known as The, said Natural Resource and Wildlife Preservation Organization director Chea Hean, who helped Sopheap’s wife, Prak Savun, file a complaint.
“His family can’t afford it because they are poor,” Hean said.
After receiving Savun’s complaint, the NGO wrote to the Interior Ministry’s General Department of Prisons on Wednesday, asking it to intervene. A copy of the letter was also sent to the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights’ Cambodia office, Hean said.
“Demanding money is an illegal act, and it is also illegal detention of a human,” Hean said.
However, Sea Sovanna, the director of Trapaing Thlong prison, denied the accusation, saying he received no court order to release Sopheap.
“He claimed he completed the prison term, but we have no proof. We don’t know when to release him,” said Sovanna. “The demands for money did not happen. It could have been someone else from outside, but not prison officers.”
Sovanna maintained that the prison was seeking clarification from the Appeal Court.
Prominent lawyer Sok Sam Oeun said yesterday that the case stemmed from systemic issues in sentencing, with release schedules varying by verdict.
Sometimes the release date is specified, sometimes it isn’t, Sam Oeun said, and courts don’t always include release dates in the event prisoners commit another crime in prison.
“It should be clearly specified in the verdict . . . Villagers do not know what to do, so they just wait for a verdict from the court. There is no institution to check on it.”