After months of claiming that Phnom Penh’s notorious Prey Speu Social Affairs Centre had all but shut down, officials yesterday told the Post that the facility would be used in its latest efforts to rid the streets of “undesirables”.
City Hall spokesman Long Dimanche said that in its forthcoming roundup of homeless people, beggars and street sellers, some will be sent to Prey Speu, a facility that has drawn the ire of rights groups for flagrant abuses.
“We are going to collect street people at the traffic light stops, but we cannot say which day . . . For small children, we will send them to NGOs and for older people, we will send them to Prey Speu.”
Dimanche added that he was unsure how many people would be collected in the next roundup or how long they would stay at the centre.
Despite repeated claims that Prey Speu, which authorities say houses only a handful of “elderly and mentally ill people”, was essentially down, Dimanche said people sent there could now expect to receive “vocational training”.
Phil Robertson, deputy director of Human Rights Watch’s Asia division, dismissed this latest claim as “laughable”.
“Prey Speu has a long history as a centre where detainees face regular beatings from the guards, inadequate food and medical attention, and neglect . . . The centre is a human rights abomination that should be closed once and for all,” he said.
Am Sam Ath, technical supervisor at rights group Licadho, agreed that sending people to the centre would be “a kind of violation of their human rights”.
In June, the Post found that children as young as 7 were sent to Prey Speu after being rounded up.
But yesterday, while Dimanche admitted that plans exist to use the centre in the future, he denied its use in previous city sweeps.
Pin Sarapich, program director at Pour un Sourire d’Enfant, said that the NGO was still seeking to help a group of children rounded up last week.
“We are only involved in stopping children [from] suffering,” he said.