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Juvenile detention centre doing 50 inmate test run

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Interior minister Sar Kheng (centre) tours the rehabilitation centre for juveniles in Kandal province on December 28. INTERIOR MINISTRY

Juvenile detention centre doing 50 inmate test run

Minister of Interior Sar Kheng on December 28 inaugurated a youth rehabilitation centre that can accommodate up to 1,400 juvenile offenders, with the first inmates arriving through transfer from other prisons. The centre is located in Barkou commune of Kandal province’s Kandal Stung district.

In his speech at the opening ceremony, Sar Kheng instructed the Ministry of Social Affairs, Veterans and Youth Rehabilitation to prepare a joint inter-ministerial prakas ordering the transfer of juvenile offenders from adult prisons to this new facility.

He said the centre’s establishment reflected the evolution of the approach to criminal justice in the Kingdom and that it was a historical first achievement.

The centre will only receive minors who violate the law and will focus on rehabilitation rather than punishment in an attempt to turn wayward youths into good citizens who are of benefit to society.

The establishment of the centre was in line with the national laws and regulations and would bring Cambodia further into compliance with the UN Standard Minimum Rules for the Administration of Juvenile Justice and the UN Rules for the Protection of Juveniles Deprived of their Liberty.

“Today we’re going to start by bringing in just 50 juveniles for a pilot programme but we don’t have enough of a legal basis for it yet without an inter-ministerial prakas. The ministries of social affairs, justice, interior, and labour and vocational training have to prepare a prakas to manage the centre and to authorise the transfer of juveniles from prisons,” he said.

Sar Kheng said the social affairs ministry is responsible for managing the centre, including its budget and spending on supplies.

“If we transfer them without a prakas, it truly is our internal business only and no one else’s, but it is illegal according to our own laws that we ourselves made and must follow. So we need the prakas because if we just transfer them all quietly in the dark of night without one, there will be all manner of accusations made,” he said.

According to the interior minister, there are currently 1,422 juveniles detained in prisons across the Kingdom for a wide range of offences.

He noted that 31.8 per cent of them were involved with drug offences, 8.79 per cent with aggravated theft, and 7.67 per cent with petty theft.

Only 2.39 per cent were involved in manslaughter and murder and just 2.18 per cent in rapes. The other 47.72 per cent were involved in a variety of other cases.

“The 50 persons we sent to the centre for a test run of the facilities are typical of our juvenile inmate population: 26 of them were involved in drugs, 22 in thefts, one in attempted murder and one in sexual assault.

“The problem that concerns us about juvenile crime is that the offenders are like bamboo shoots and if the bamboo shoots rot from now on, what will happen to the forest? This problem concerns the very future of our country,” Sar Kheng said.

Social affairs minister Vong Soth said at the inauguration that the centre shows the government’s focus on encouraging the implementation of the law on juvenile justice by strengthening effective education, and training and rehabilitation in line with the actual development situation of Cambodia.

“Overall, this centre is not only a place for juveniles who break the law, but also a place for vocational education and training for them so that they will become human resources for their society in the future in line with [government policy], especially in achieving the goal of no one left behind,” he said.

According to Soth, the centre was built on 48,830sqm of land starting in March 30, 2020, at a cost of nearly $4 million.

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