PHNOM PENH: An Australian businessman locked up in Cambodia's most notorious prison says he is the victim of a revenge set-up following the collapse of a business deal.
Sydney-born Frank May, the former chief operating officer of Cambodia's leading telecommunications company, Emaxx Telecom, is sharing a seven-square-metre cell in Prey Sar prison with 21 men charged with violent, sexual or drug offences. His legs are blistering with infections from the filthy conditions.
Mr May, 64, said the two counts of forgery and count of conspiring to defraud that he faces relate to a document forged by someone who falsely used his name and bank account, showing he had $US1 million ($960,000) in savings, when in fact he had $US1300. The charges carry a maximum sentence of nine years in jail.
Mr May was sitting in a cafe when police detained him and took him to Cambodia's Interior Ministry, where he was held for 72 hours before being charged and sent to Prey Sar, one of the world's most overcrowded prisons, on the capital's outskirts.
Mr May said he was given two statements to sign which he could not read because they were in Khmer. He said he saw a person familiar to him hand money to an officer guarding him.
Mr May said he was eating rice with a ''green slime flavour'' and other ''fly-infested goods'' bought at the prison's shop. The water he bought in bottles was ''brackish at best''. He said it was tough in the prison and ''they test your strength here … your physical and mental strength''. Mr May said he believed he was at the centre of a conspiracy based on revenge to ruin his reputation over a past business deal.
''All I know is the bank came into custody of a document that uses my name and my account and then I was charged with this conspiracy to defraud,'' he said.
Mr May said he still trusted parts of the business community in Cambodia, where has worked for 2½ years.
''The country needs foreign expertise in engineering, accounting, law and business,'' he said. ''I believe there is opportunity in this country [but] unfortunately sometimes people have their noses in the trough … I hope the younger generation can push away the shadows of the past.''
Since May, Mr May has been the chairman and chief executive of Signature Capital Energy Industry of Cambodia, which is involved in energy efficiency and production.
Business associates of Mr May who spoke to Fairfax Media were shocked by his jailing. The chief of a telecom equipment vendor, who asked not to be named, said Mr May was ''extremely professional with a high sense of integrity''.
The Australian embassy in Phnom Penh declined to comment on any assistance it was providing.