The local rights group Licadho met with juvenile prisoners and mothers in prison on Wednesday, offering food and other comforts to inmates as the country marked International Children’s Day.
Cambodian prisons are overcrowded and under-funded, the group said, and “children often bear the brunt of the system’s dysfunction.”
“In most provincial prisons, for example, minor prisoners are fully integrated with the adult population,” it said in a statement. “Food rations are inadequate and medical care is often non-existent.”
“Prisons, in general, are no place for children and juveniles,” Licadho founder Pung Chhiv Kek said. “The system is totally incapable of providing for a child’s basic needs—education, proper nutrition, medical care, and so on. The experience is more likely to harden juveniles than rehabilitate them.”
Licadho distributed 1,200 packets containing bread, soy sauce, fruit and other items like toothpaste, soap, toys and combs in prisons across the country.
Phean Chhor Vorn, prison chief of Banteay Meanchey province, said two NGOs had visited and made distributions for 45 juvenile inmates, who are facing between two- and five-year sentences.
The government estimates some 730 juvenile prisoners—those aged between 14 and 17—are incarcerated in the country’s 25 prisons.