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Rights Group Urges Investigation of Inmate Death

The Hong Kong-based Asian Human Rights Commission has called on the authorities to investigate the death of a prison inmate in April.

Yan Sok Kea, 21, died of fever April 28 in a Phnom Penh hospital, leading to questions about his treatment while in Prey Sar prison and how long prison authorities kept him from treatment.

Medical staff maintain they lacked medicine, money and equipment to treat him.

Yan Sok Kea was arrested in the wake of a forcible eviction in Preah Vihear province in November 2007, though he was only a bystander, the Rights Commission said.

He was erroneously charged with forest destruction and was being held in Prey Sar, where he died after being ill for at least two weeks, the group said.

Adhoc rights investigator Chan Saveth told VOA Khmer he suspected the inmate died because he was not treated promptly or properly.

“The doctor only gave him medicine without doing any examination, so that it was very difficult to know what exactly affected the patient,” he said.

A Preah Sihanouk Hospital doctor said Yan Sok Kea died of meningitis, Chan Saveth said.

Prey Sar lacks hygienic food and water, affecting the health of many prisoners, he said. “Some of them are sick until death.”

Others die in altercations with other prisoners, he said.

Prison officials say they are working to ensure inmates get prompt, proper treatment.

“They cannot make [the prison] as clean as the living standard outside,” said warden Heng Hak. “Not only can Cambodia not do that, but none of the countries of the world can.”

He denied prisoners died in fights.

“That would never happen,” he said.