Cambodia's first mental rehabilitation centre was formally opened in Kandal province’s Kandal Stung district on Wednesday, with the government planning to build a specialist facility to house jailed minors.
Speaking during the opening ceremony, Minister of Interior Sar Kheng said the Kingdom’s socio-economic progress meant it was the appropriate time to build such a facility.
“The centre was established to receive mentally ill people from across the country.
“It will comprise a mental rehabilitation centre, a centre for sentenced minors and a hospital for orphans – but the hospital will also be open to the general public,” said Sar Kheng, who is also deputy prime minister.
Minister of Social Affairs, Veterans and Youth Rehabilitation Vong Soth said during the ceremony that the centre was built on 3ha of land and aimed to cater for people with a variety of mental illnesses and share the load with temporary social rehabilitation centres in Phnom Penh and the provinces.
He said the construction of the centre is taking place in two phases using a budget of approximately seven billion riel ($1.75 million).
The cost included the refurbishment of two buildings, Soth said, one for women and one for men, and the construction of two new buildings with 23 rooms each, as well as a rehabilitation centre and a room for staff.
“In order to ensure the effective management of the workforce in accordance with proper technical standards, the ministry has cooperated with other relevant ministries to establish a management structure with a total of 68 officials serving the work of the Ministry of Social Affairs, the Ministry of Health and the Ministry of Interior.
“These officials will work around the clock in four-hour shifts to ensure the regular provision of healthcare, rehabilitation and security,” he said.
Soth said the centre had been operating on a trial basis since July 9, and 20 male and 28 female mentally ill patients had been transferred from Phnom Penh’s temporary social rehabilitation centre.
The centre’s primary mission, Soth said, is to provide care and rehabilitation services for people with mental illnesses who are poor or homeless – such as people living in public places or pagodas – and other victims who have been abandoned and not received care from their families or the community.
He said a report by specialist officials had shown that a large number of juvenile offenders were living with adults, which was not in compliance with laws on juvenile justice.
“Therefore, with the approval of the Royal Government, the ministry plans to build a youth rehabilitation centre in a separate location to provide education, training and rehabilitation before reintegrating young people into their families and the community,” Soth said.
Sar Kheng added: “Having examined it, we see that we are able to prepare a place to put minors into separate custody.
“In the past, human rights organisations, especially international organisations have been critical of the administration of these matters in relation to human rights and other issues.
“They do not understand the real situation in Cambodia . . . we are looking for the best ways to manage detainees.”
Ministry of Social Affairs, Veterans and Youth Rehabilitation spokesman Touch Channy said the mental rehabilitation centre was able to accommodate more than 300 people and that the construction of the juvenile detention centre would begin soon, now that it had received government approval.
Soeng Sen Karuna, the senior investigator at rights group Adhoc, applauded the launch of the centre because he had observed that mentally ill people had not received proper care.
“We have this centre and should have more specialist groups to help treat mentally ill people.
The Ministry of Social Affairs should gather people who cause insecurity in public places and treat them at the centre too because they are a threat to other people,” he said.