Visits short for jailed Boeung Kak spouses

Khouth Sophak Chakrya, Phnom Penh Post, Jun. 08 2012

A group of women from the Boeung Kak lake community cry and call out to friends and family from inside Phnom Penh Municipal Court last month on the day of their trial and sentencing. Photograph: Meng Kimlong/Phnom Penh Post
Boeung Kak villager Heng Tong has seen his wife, Heng Mom, for a total of 15 minutes since she was sent to Prey Sar prison after a three-hour trial on May 24. He has been granted three visits and has had to bring money to pay for his wife’s drinking water. “We were allowed only five minutes each time,” he said yesterday. “It’s such a short time for us.

“My wife told me she has been getting just . . . one [500ml] bottle of water per day,” Heng Tong said. “Prisoners have to buy more water, which costs 1,500 riel per bottle.” Heng Mom was one of 13 demonstrators arrested at Boeung Kak on May 22 and jailed two days later for between one and two and a half years. The women’s sentencing came hours after they were charged with disputing authorities and trespassing on land awarded to Shukaku, a company headed by CPP senator Lao Meng Khin. Ou Kongchea, husband of imprisoned Tep Vanny, has been allowed to see his wife once since she was taken to Prey Sar. “My wife told me to take care of the two kids and not worry about her,” he said. “But the conditions are very bad.” Ou Kongchea said he had made two more trips to Prey Sar, and both times guards had refused to let him see his wife.

Other families have been refused entry, and guards kept Licadho representatives and Post reporters away from the women during an event in the prison’s courtyard on May 29. Sao Sareoun and Ly Chanary, who were arrested outside the women’s trial and charged with the same offences, are also in Prey Sar. Meanwhile, Rong Chhun, president of the Cambodian Confederation of Unions, filed a petition to King Norodom Sihamoni yesterday asking for the release of the 15. “I request the King to seriously punish the judge [and] prosecutor as a consequence of over-using power,” Rong Chhun said. Boeung Kak residents tried to deliver a similar petition to the King on Tuesday, but it was not accepted. Prince Norodom Ranariddh yesterday ordered 750 kilograms of rice to be delivered to the 15 Boeung Kak prisoners.

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