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Drug czar visits rehab centre

Ke Kim Yan, chairman of National Authority for Combating Drugs, enters a room at the Orkas Knhom centre on the outskirts of Phnom Penh yesterday. Photo supplied
Ke Kim Yan, chairman of National Authority for Combating Drugs, enters a room at the Orkas Knhom centre on the outskirts of Phnom Penh yesterday. Photo supplied

Drug czar visits rehab centre

Following a visit to a notorious drug detention centre on Tuesday, a top Cambodian anti-drug official offered suggestions for improving the site, although his recommendations failed to address civil society’s long-standing concerns.

Ke Kim Yan, president of the National Authority for Combating Drugs, during a Tuesday evening visit to the Orkas Knhom (“My Chance”) rehabilitation centre, one of a handful in the country, listed two critiques of the notorious detention centre.

Responding to “criticism from the public regarding many problems” in Orkas Knhom, Yan said that he worried patients, who are held at the centre involuntarily, were receiving drugs from family members coming in on visits.

“There may be drug deliveries happening in the centre, so we must investigate it,” he said.

In his second point, Yan said that during his visit he had asked the director to enlarge the rehabilitation centre.

“I suggested to the centre director to consider expanding, because there is still [free] land left around the centre,” he said.

Yan said that “newcomers and older patients should be separated”, stressing that newly arrived drug addicts, fresh off the streets, might cause patients who had been there longer to “become addicts again”.

“This is our main point. They should not mix together,” he said.

Users are kept at the facility from three months to two years, supposedly depending on the severity of their addictions, according to Orkas Knhom’s director Mom Chan Dany, who could not say yesterday if or when they would expand the size of the centre.

As for addressing Yan’s other suggestions, Dany said that they would try their best.

“We are pleased to receive [Yan’s] advice to reform the centre. Now we are trying our best to rehabilitate these patients. We wish for the addicts to be able to return to society,” she said, adding that the centre held 733 patients.

The recommendations, however, did not take into account longstanding civil society criticisms of Orkas Knhom and facilities like it.

According to investigations by Human Rights Watch, Cambodia’s drug rehabilitation centres offer little hope of actual rehabilitation, and are often hotbeds of violence, sexual abuse and forced labour, places for “undesirables” to be dumped and forgotten.

The advocacy group has called for the “immediate closure” of Cambodia’s drug detention centres.

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