THE Council of Ministers has approved plans for Cambodia’s largest-ever drug rehabilitation centre, following concerns from the United Nations and other groups about the Kingdom’s treatment model.
Moek Dara, secretary general of the National Authority for Combating Drugs, said the facility, approved on Friday, would be built on about 20 hectares of land in Preah Sihanouk province and would have a capacity of 2,000 people.
While critics have urged Cambodia to move away from a punitive model of drug treatment, Moek Dara said some patients could be compelled to remain at the centre involuntarily.
“According to the law, we have to keep them at the centre if they refuse to receive the treatment, or we have to send them to court,” Moek Dara said. “We’re not forcing them to be bad, we’re forcing them to be good.”
In a report released earlier this year, Human Rights Watch documented numerous instances of rape, torture and involuntary incarceration at Cambodian drug treatment centres. The group has warned that by following the example of China and Vietnam, which also utilise compulsory detention, Cambodia risks employing a treatment model with no proven medical benefits.
The government has requested that Vietnam provide US$2.5 million in funding for the Preah Sihanouk centre, Moek Dara said.
Local tycoon Mong Reththy, chairman of the Mong Reththy Group, has pledged to donate land for the project, which is located near a port and plantations controlled by MRG.
“We will provide jobs to all drug-addicted people who are willing to work, and I welcome all drug-addicted people because I have a lot of space for them,” Mong Reththy said yesterday.
Joe Amon, director of Human Rights Watch’s health and human rights division, warned in October about the involvement of private companies in funding drug treatment, which is permitted under Cambodia’s pending drug law.
“The most worrying scenario is one of systematised forced labour by detainees for the benefit of private companies,” Amon said.
Mong Reththy said all those from the centre working for him would receive “normal salaries, according to their skill”.
The government signed a letter of intent with the UN in November to provide voluntary, community-based drug treatment options in addition to compulsory centres, following a visit to the Kingdom by UN secretary general Ban Ki-moon.