Cambodia’s prison population is swelling, with juveniles making up a significant proportion of inmates. But one nongovernmental organization is working to ensure that juveniles receive better opportunities to get education and skills.
Based in Siem Reap, ‘This Life Cambodia’ was founded in 2007 to make changes at the local communities in Siem Reap, Banteay Meanchey, and Oddar Meanchey provinces. The organization, which also works on other issues affecting Cambodian youth, says it has made a direct impact on more than 1,400 children and 3,000 adults.
“Our projects aim to empower rural Cambodians to tackle poverty and other issues, including the lack of a juvenile justice system, domestic violence and violence against women, through educational programs and research and consultant,” said Chhin Se, deputy director of This Life Cambodia in a recent interview with VOA Khmer.
Now, the organization’s work has been internationally recognized. Earlier this month the group picked up the Stars Foundation’s Impact Award 2015. The award includes $50,000, technical assistance and training from Stars Foundation, which works to provide support to organizations that make change to the lives of children across the world.
“This award means so much not only to our team, but also to the children, families and our partners, including the government, with whom we work,” Se said. “Most importantly, it dignifies our fight for a justice system for juveniles.”
Cambodia has yet to set up a justice system specifically for young offenders, despite some efforts to draft a law on the issue, he said.
The prison population in the country has swelled to 17,522 people, up 18 percent from last year. More than 3 per cent of inmates are children under 18 years old.
“We encourage the government to give priority to drafting and establishing a justice system for juveniles because children deserve better justice,” Se said.