THE Ministry of Social Welfare has apparently re-opened at least one
of its three shadowy detention centers around the outskirts of Phnom Penh.
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
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.