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Fears over new women’s drugs unit in Phnom Penh

A drug rehabilitation unit for women was inaugurated at the controversial Orgkhas Khnom Centre in Phnom Penh yesterday, sparking concern from human rights groups.

The Sen Sok district centre was embroiled in controversy last year after Human Rights Watch released a report in which former patients at Orgkhas Khnom and other centres recounted stories of arbitrary detention and vicious beatings at the hands of staff. Its new 10-room building, funded by the local branch of Vietnamese state-owned Bank for Investment and Development of Vietnam, cost more than US$18,000 and will be the Kingdom’s first all-female drug rehab facility.

Centre director Ean Sokhim said yesterday that the unit would “provide education on morals, virtue and manners related to daily life for youths suffering from drug [addiction]”.

He denied all accusations relating to maltreatment of patients, stating that violence would be counterproductive to the treatment of addiction.  A report distributed by the centre yesterday said it used medicine, religion, psychological analysis and exercise to help users recover.

However Joe Amon, director of the health and human rights division of Human Rights Watch, remains concerned for the welfare of women at the new unit.

“Orgkas Khnom, like other drug detention centers in Cambodia, operates entirely outside the law. Women and girls sent to Orgkas Khnom will face these same abuses and the same ineffective, absolutely useless, so-called drug treatment,” he said.

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