Hard life for kids in jail: report

Children wait with their mothers during a visitation day at a prison in 2009
Children wait with their mothers during a visitation day at a prison in 2009. POST STAFF

Hard life for kids in jail: report

Having begun life in an overcrowded cell with nowhere to play, little to eat and surrounded by abuse, when Dara* left prison at nearly 4 years old, he had not yet spoken a single word.

Dara’s story is the second in a series of case studies released by local rights group Licadho, which aim to “bridge the gap in knowledge” about young children in the Kingdom’s prisons.

According to the report, which was released on Saturday, Dara’s experience “highlights the critical importance of putting special measures in place when children are housed in Cambodian prisons with their mothers”.

As of last month, there were 39 children between the ages of 1 month and almost 4 years living with their mothers in prisons monitored by Licadho. Almost all of them “have never experienced or do not remember life beyond prison walls”.

Dara was born after his mother’s arrest and spent the first three-and-a-half years of his life in Takhmao prison. According to Licadho, no assessment was carried out to determine whether it would be appropriate for him to stay there.

Behind bars, Dara suffered numerous health problems and was hospitalised twice “after not receiving timely treatment”.

He suffered abuse at the hands of his mother, who sometimes “slapped him so hard that he fell to the floor and was left bleeding from the mouth and nose”. Guards reportedly beat his mother in response, the report says.

Despite a 2009 sub-decree ordering that mothers unable to breastfeed children under the age of 1 be provided with formula milk, Dara’s own mother received no such support.

When Dara eventually left prison to live with his grandparents in March 2013, it “was not out of consideration for his safety and well-being but because . . . the law no longer permitted him to stay” there.

Now 5 years old, Dara, who is receiving speech therapy, remains “severely delayed in his verbal communication”, displays “aggressive, destructive behaviour” and has “developed a general mistrust of his mother and the world around him”.

In general, Licadho says it supports “efforts to ensure newborn babies and small children have the opportunity to remain with their detained mothers”, but believes this should only happen after “comprehensive, individual assessments”.

Among its recommendations, Licadho calls for improved child protection efforts, and training on child development and the health care needs of pregnant mothers and children.

Chat Sineang, director of Takhmao prison, could not be reached for comment, while Sorn Keo, spokesman for the Interior Ministry’s General Department of Prisons, dismissed the report.

“They are living in good conditions, not as the NGO reports,” he said.

*Name changed by the report’s authors

MOST VIEWED

  • Ethnic group ‘disappointed’ to be denied French visas to attend court

    Eleven people at the centre of a case involving seven indigenous Bunong villages in Mondulkiri province pursuing legal action in France have expressed disappointment after the French embassy in Phnom Penh denied their visa applications to attend court. A press release said the 11 included a

  • Cambodia nabs 12th place in best retirement destinations

    Cambodia is an expatriate hotspot for those dreaming of living a more luxurious lifestyle at an affordable cost, according to International Living’s Annual Global Retirement Index 2019. For the fourth year in a row, Cambodia took the top spot in the Cost of Living category.

  • EU starts EBA withdrawal

    The EU on Monday announced that it has begun the 18-month process of withdrawing the Kingdom’s access to its preferential Everything But Arms (EBA) agreement over “a deterioration of democracy [and] respect for human rights”. However, the Garment Manufacturers Association of Cambodia (GMAC) said

  • PM: War result of foreign meddling

    Prime Minister Hun Sen said on Sunday that Cambodia’s recent history of conflict was caused by foreign interference. “The wars that happened were caused by provocation, incitement, support, smearing and interference from foreign powers, and the group of ignorant people who pushed Cambodia to