An inmate of Phnom Penh’s Prey Sar prison, currently dealing with a Covid-19 outbreak, died from pneumonia at the Khmer-Soviet hospital on Monday, according to his wife, who said he did not have Covid-19 but the prisons were slow to treat him.
Khmer-Soviet Friendship Hospital deputy director Mok Theavy confirmed the death, but referred further questions to prison officials.
“My side prepared documents and sent them to the prison already,” Theavy said. “Please ask the prison.”
At least seven prisons out of 28 across the country have found Covid-19 cases among detainees, including more than 100 cases each at the provincial prisons of Kandal and Kampong Speu. Prison officials have been reluctant to disclose details of the outbreaks, however, with no direct answer given in response to claims by Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch that there have also been “hundreds” of cases at Phnom Penh’s PJ prison.
Chhit Malis, the wife of Prey Sar prisoner Taing Ron, said on Tuesday that her husband had fallen ill and developed a high fever last week.
“He was wrapped up in a towel for three or four days and water entered his lungs,” Malis said.
He was taken to the hospital on Sunday and died around 5 a.m. Monday, Malis said.
Doctors told her that a scan showed water in his lungs, and that he died of severe pneumonia. They did not mention Covid-19 or his recent second vaccination shot, she said.
“He was tested three or four times, but there was no Covid-19,” Malis said. But he should have been sent to hospital earlier with a high fever, she said.
“It took him three or four days before being sent on June 6. If he was sent in time, he would be OK. But my husband was sent with a serious condition already with a temperature of 39 to 40 degrees,” she said, wondering if the vaccination played a part.
“Let the doctors receive patients. Do not discriminate like that. That is what I am angry about.”
According to Malis, her husband was arrested in September 2019 at Koh Pich, and sentenced to three years in jail for robbery. He had just three months left on his sentence, she said.
Interior Ministry prisons department spokesperson Nuth Savna said he had yet to see the Khmer-Soviet hospital’s report on the case.
He said that in general, some prisoners have health issues due to a history of drug abuse.
“But I dare not conclude until the doctor examines his samples first on whether he died of Covid and pneumonia,” Savna said.
Am Sam Ath, monitoring manager at human rights group Licadho, said the treatment of detainees appeared to be inconsistent depending on social status, and urged timely attention for all.
“The point is that people make comparisons and criticize because we have seen that in the past some oknha, rich people and some with positions were imprisoned but allowed to be hospitalized for many years due to health problems,” Sam Ath said.
A recent example includes Kith Theang, the brother of Royal Group tycoon Kith Meng, who was arrested in March 2019 on drug charges but was sent to hospital the following month. Officials told media again in 2020 and 2021 that he was in hospital.
“So what about other inmates? They are also human. When they are sick and need to be treated, they need to be sent to hospital too. That is what is called equal rights and equal access to health care,” Sam Ath said.
(Translated and edited from the original article on VOD Khmer)