The Ministry of Social Affairs, Veterans and Youth Rehabilitation is in talks with the Ministry of Economy and Finance and a construction company about building a youth rehabilitation centre on more than 5ha in Kandal province’s Kandal Stung district.
There are now more than 1,800 minors in detention who are housed in overcrowded prisons with adults. The ministry’s spokesman Touch Channy told The Post on Monday that this was not in line with the juvenile justice law.
Therefore, he said, the ministry has received government approval to build a youth rehabilitation centre in the near future to provide education, training and rehabilitation for detained minors before they are reintegrated into their families and the community.
“We are planning a project to build a centre on more than 5ha near the new mental health rehabilitation centre.
“The centre will house offending youths under the age of 18 who are currently being detained in prison with adults,” Channy said.
He said that given their age, certain detained minors were unlikely to be convicted, but because there was nowhere to house them, the ministry had temporarily sent them to prison.
“Now we are in discussions with the Ministry of Economy and Finance and a construction company. If we have sufficient funds, we will complete the construction of the centre in about two years.
“But now we are talking to the Ministry of Economy about funding for the project because it will be fully financed by the government. We plan to construct five buildings at the centre at a cost of about $2 million,” Channy said.
General Department of Prisons spokesman Nuth Savana said that as of last month, there were 1,805 juvenile prisoners, including 81 women.
“If the Ministry of Social Affairs takes them under its control, it would reduce the prison population by five per cent,” he said.
Am Sam Ath, the deputy director of monitoring at human rights group Licadho, applauded the decision to build a youth rehabilitation centre, saying minors should not be detained with adults.
“Juveniles are being detained in crowded, non-rehabilitative and non-educational environments.
“We want the government to make it possible for detained juveniles to have a good education so they can become good citizens after returning to their families. Adult prisoners are very likely to be a bad influence on minors,” he said.