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Two jailed activists reportedly beaten in prison, official denies charge

Jailed Khmer Thavrak activist Eng Malai, above, alleged that she was beaten by other Prey Sar prisoners in early December for conducting a hunger strike.
Jailed Khmer Thavrak activist Eng Malai, above, alleged that she was beaten by other Prey Sar prisoners in early December for conducting a hunger strike.

Two jailed Khmer Thavrak activists were allegedly beaten in Prey Sar’s Correctional Center 2 in early December, according to a relative of one of the activists, an accusation denied by the Prisons Department.

Eng Vanndy, 21, who is the sister of Khmer Thavrak activist Eng Malai, said her sister and another jailed activist, Chhoeun Daravy, were beaten by prisoners for going on a hunger strike earlier this month. She visited her sister in prison on Wednesday and said Malai was physically injured and pale.

“My sister told me that she and Chhoeun Daravy were beaten by several prisoners on December 6, after [they] went on a hunger strike on December 2 until December 6 to request prison officials to respect the human rights of political prisoners, who were being unjustly detained,” said Vanndy.

The sister has asked Malai’s lawyer to request NGOs to investigate the alleged beatings, adding that it was unusual for other prisoners to beat political detainees.

The Interior Ministry’s Department of Prisons denied the allegations and instead said that Malai was misbehaving and other prisoners were only trying to get her into the cell.

Nuth Savna, the department’s spokesperson, said prison guards had ordered inmates to enter their cells and when Malai did not obey the instructions officials asked “cell leaders” to take her inside.

Savna claimed that Malai disobeyed the guards and hit a prisoner on the head with a book, after which the same prisoner accidentally hit Malai in self defense and others carried the Khmer Thavrak activist into the cell.

 “I deny that anyone beat her; she was the first to cause trouble,” Savna said on Friday.

He added that Daravy was not involved in the tussle at all, and that he would contact Vanndy for clarification over her allegations, which she also posted on Facebook.

Eng Malai and four other activists had their applications rejected by the Appeal Court on Friday. The four others include Khmer Thavrak activists Koeut Saray and Tha Lavy, and Khmer Student Intelligent League Association members Mean Prummony and Moung Sopheak.

All five were part of a slew of detentions linked to protests demanding the release of Rong Chhun, president of the Cambodia Confederation of Unions, who was arrested in late July.

Plang Samnang, a spokesperson for the Appeal Court, said it had decided to uphold the Phnom Penh Municipal Court’s legal reasoning and decision to deny the five activists bail.

“The Appeal Court has decided to uphold the Phnom Penh Court’s verdict,”, Samnang said, not providing any additional details about the verdict.

Sam Chamroeun, the five activists’ defense lawyer, said the Appeal Court wanted to ensure that his clients continued to attend hearings at the Phnom Penh court, which is currently investigating the charges.

“The Appeal Court upheld the Phnom Penh Municipal Court’s decision to not allow them bail because they want them to keep attending the hearings,” said Chamroeun.

He added that on Thursday, the Appeal Court had rejected a request to close the investigation into seven activists from Khmer Thavarak because the court ruled that he had made incorrect filings in relation to the request.

Chak Sopheap, executive director at the Cambodian Center for Human Rights, said the court was continuing the excessive use of pre-trial detention, which was not the rule and meant to be used in exceptional cases.

“Requiring these activists to remain in pre-trial detention is deplorable. It amounts to an arbitrary deprivation of liberty and is an illustration of the excessive use of pre-trial detention in Cambodia,” she said. 

Ny Sokha, the head of monitoring for local rights NGO ADHOC, said the group had received information of the alleged beating of Malai and Daravy, but was still investigating the issue.

The rights advocate added that it was the responsibility of the prison officials and guards to ensure the safety of inmates and that whoever was involved in the incident should be held accountable.

“If this case really happened, it is the responsibility of the prison to hold the people who did the beating responsible,” Sokha said.

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