An Interior Ministry official has denied that imprisoned former CNRP activists, who were transferred to a Tbong Khmum prison this month, were beaten in prison as alleged by family members.
On August 22, the prisons department confirmed that former CNRP activists had been transferred to the prison complex along the border, where Kem Sokha was detained when he was first arrested in September 2017.
Family members of those transferred said on Friday that their family members — the 14 activists — were beaten up by other prisoners. Soam Chanthou, a member of the Friday Women of Cambodia, said her husband told her about the beatings when she met him in prison but did not want to reveal her husband’s name.
Chanthou said the political prisoners had brought items into the jail but were told that those things were not allowed, leading to an argument with prison guards. She alleged that as a result, the guards allowed other prisoners to abuse the CNRP activists.
“They beat them, slapped them three or four times. Frankly, they mistreated them, kicked them three or four times,” Chanthou said, alleging that one activist, Nhem Van, suffered a broken rib.
Licadho spokesman Am Sam Ath said his organization had also received information about jailed opposition activists who were transferred to Trapaing Plong prison suffering violence in the prison, but said on Friday that he had yet to receive clear details.
Interior Ministry spokesperson Khieu Sopheak rejected the families’ accusations and said there was no violence against the 14 activists moved to the Tbong Khmum prison. He said the imprisoned men were older and had existing illnesses.
He said the accusations by the families were only meant to make Cambodia look bad and to attract the attention of foreigners.
“So we consider this case a fabrication. It is not true and the prison official is also not a fighter. So whoever is a fighter, please file a clear complaint. What time and where was it? Who beat who up?” Sopheak said.
He said even if the government investigated the claims, civil society organizations would reject the findings.
Chanthou, the Friday Women activist, said Sopheak’s denial was his attempt to divert responsibility rather than investigate the accusations.
Chanthou added that prison staff also prevented her from bringing items for the imprisoned CNRP activists and asked that they make purchases at the prison shop.