Prison furniture entrepreneur or slave labor master?

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Soi Dog
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Prison furniture entrepreneur or slave labor master?

Post by Soi Dog » Fri Aug 29, 2014 1:16 am

...and using illegally harvested timber to boot... wrote:Made with conviction
Wed, 27 August 2014
Alice Cuddy and May Titthara
Battambang province
Within the walls of Battambang Provincial Prison, a highly lucrative carpentry business has elevated a convicted logger to the status of prison don, one whose alliance with the warden and de facto rule has shrouded the jail in fear and silence, those close to the operation allege.

Teav Chhai was arrested in Battambang’s Samlot district in 2008 and sentenced to eight years for logging luxury wood illegally, sources told the Post. After serving about a year in Prey Sar prison in Phnom Penh, he was granted a transfer request and sent back to Battambang.

Multiple sources – including former inmates – allege that Chhai rapidly transformed a small-scale vocational carpentry scheme into a big earner, producing made-to-order furniture using luxury wood such as beng and thnong, which are protected species under Cambodia’s forestry laws.

Chhai collaborated directly, they added, with prison director Sam Ol Thearith, who is now considered the only person to hold more authority within the prison than Chhai, a situation confirmed by a current prison guard.

Both Chhai and Ol Thearith have denied the existence of the alleged prison racket.

The illicit business, understandably, is a secretive one, leaving few willing to speak out.

Oudom*, a former inmate who worked under Chhai, said that the inmates working for the business – about 10 per cent of the prison’s population – work a solid eight-hour day, seven days a week.

During working hours, the 100 or so prisoners, who, several sources confirmed, were forced to work for Chhai, had “no time to speak”, Oudom said.

“Prisoners who are detained for a long time have to work for Mr Chhai; they have no choice but to work for him.”

The seven-day week is prohibited under the rules governing Cambodian prisons, which mandate at least one day off, but Oudom said Chhai and Ol Thearith had no concern for such niceties.

Prisoners who refuse the work or are taken ill have been denied visitation rights, have spent time locked in their cells as punishment and have endured long periods in handcuffs as a form of torture, he said. “We don’t want to be punished, so we have to work even if we are sick.”
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