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.
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.
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
"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."