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Group Calls for Closure of City Centers

The rights group Licadho on Monday called on authorities to close two social service centers near the capital that it said had turned into sites of illegal detention.

Both centers--Prey Speu and Koh Kor--were used by the Khmer Rouge, and the latter is located on an island.

Phnom Penh's department of social services has been using the centers to "lock up" beggars, the homeless, children and pregnant women, Licadho monitor Am Sam Art told VOA Khmer.

Phnom Penh city and police officials denied the centers did nothing but lock people up.

"The Licadho statement is not true because normally [authorities] try to collect all the beggar children, street children, homeless children and drug-addicted people to Koh Kor rehabilitation center," said Phnom Penh Police Chief Touch Naroth. "I believe that municipal policy is trying to collect those people in order to educate and train them to have good skills and a good profession."

Am Sam Art, however, said Licadho had investigated the centers and found that they were not acting in the interest of rehabilitation, but detention.

"Through our monitoring at the Koh Kor correction center, we saw people who were brought by the municipal department of social affairs and rehabilitation locked up and detained," he said. Detainees "are only allowed to go outside one or two times a day, and there is a lack of medical care."

One woman died as a result of poor care, he said.

"According to the information that we have received from the former detainees who were freed from the center, the centers' guards always beat up the people who are brought in by the social affairs department," Am Sam Art said.

The door and windows are kept shut and people are provided buckets for urination and defecation, he said.

Some people gave bribes to one center's chief in order to free their relatives, he said.

"Some people bribe $100 to $150 to the center chief so that they can free their relatives," he said. "On 24 June, the Koh Kor rehabilitation center freed all the detainees, after Licadho provided pictures of the detainees, including children, women and old men, to the government, but there are five people still detained in the correction center," he said. "They all have mental problems and they don’t have anywhere to go."