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Logo of Phnom Penh Post newspaper Phnom Penh Post - Capital's detention centers a hell away from home

Capital's detention centers a hell away from home

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THE Ministry of Social Welfare has apparently re-opened at least one

of its three shadowy detention centers around the outskirts of Phnom Penh.

PITIFUL PRISON

Kapsrov, on the edge of the capital, housed up to 90 homeless people. Mass arrests have begun again in Phnom Penh.

Kapsrov center, near Wat Pun Phum in Dang Kor district about, 13km west of the city

center, has been used by the Ministry of Social Welfare as a "center for homeless

people" for two years.

Up to 90 people were locked up in the wooden building - 23 meters long by 9 meters

wide - all day except at 3pm when they were allowed to go out to take a bath.

The centers were closed over the election period, but on Aug 4 the Post witnessed

the reintroduction of the round-ups of squatters and beggars by armed Military Police

and plain-clothes police near Phsar Thmei.

Escapees from the camp have told the Post and human rights workers that authorities

there were effectively holding them for ransom. They alleged they were beaten, electrocuted,

interrogated and some women raped or forced to give sexual favors to camp soldiers

in exchange for their release.

They said the camps have now been fenced off and are patrolled by guards with dogs.

There is little food and detainees have to squat over holes in the floor to relieve

themselves.

Most prisoners come from Prey Veng and Svay Rieng - areas so drought-stricken and

poor that villages have been meeting together for some months and selecting able-bodied

locals to go to the capital to try to make some money.

Minister of Social Welfare Suy Sem disagreed that force was used to arrest or detain

homeless people. He said "social workers" counseled the homeless who were

only then taken to the center if they consented to go.

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