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Logo of Phnom Penh Post newspaper Phnom Penh Post - New daycare centre opens for Prey Sar prison children

New daycare centre opens for Prey Sar prison children

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The daughter of a Prey Sar inmate inspects clothes being mended by prisoners there. A new daycare centre opened at the prison this month for the children who live there.

Centre to provide food and education for nine of 18 children, all under 6 years old, growing up behind bars with their mothers.

PREY Sar prison opened a daycare centre this month for children whose mothers are detained there, the prison's chief told the Post on Monday.

Chat Sineang said there are 18 children currently incarcerated with their mothers at the prison, nine of whom will be cared for at the new centre.

"They are sent to the daycare centre in the morning and sent back to the prison in the evening," he said.

"Our caregivers take care of their health, give them food and provide education," he said.

Most of the children, all under 6 years old, have no choice but to stay at the prison because they have no other relatives willing to take them in.

"I am happy that all of those children now have a good place to stay, enough food to eat and education just like other children," Chat Sineang said. "We are waiting to get more funding from other organisations for the centre."

There are currently at least 50 children aged 6 and under living in prison with their mothers in Cambodia, according to the rights group Licadho, which tracks prison populations in 18 of the Kingdom's 26 prisons.

Before the construction of the daycare centre, children at Prey Sar would spend the entire day with their mothers.

Chat Sineang said some mothers were afraid to leave their children at the daycare centre because they feared they could become victims of human trafficking.

Chheav Hourlay, a prison researcher for Licadho, said this made it important for the daycare centre - where children can get experience interacting with other children and adults - to be close to the prison itself.

"We did not want to build a daycare centre far from the prison because then we would separate children from their mothers," Chheav Hourlay said.

Groups such as Licadho have attempted to reach out to the children at Prey Sar - most recently by bringing them gifts and hiring comedians to perform for them on International Children's Day in May.

But no comprehensive support system has yet been established for children who leave Cambodia's prisons, which they are required to do when they turn 6.

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