After more than a decade of planning, a draft juvenile justice law intended to ensure rights for children in jail was passed by the National Assembly yesterday.
Ministry of Justice spokesperson Chin Malin confirmed the passage, and said the draft law – which says minors held in detention will be kept separate from adult inmates, a youth rehabilitation centre will be established and prison guards will be trained in child psychology and welfare – would now be sent to the King to be ratified.
But observers said yesterday that while the law made some important steps, they feared it did not go far enough and worried that Cambodia lacked the resources to implement it effectively.
Sokunthea Sambath, child rights technical coordinator at Plan International, which worked with the ministry and other NGOs to develop the draft since 2002, said detention should be “the last resort for children”.
“I do appreciate the [government’s] commitment, but they do not have the resources,” she said.
UNICEF spokesperson Iman Mooroka said the “long-awaited” law would prove a “milestone” once it was enforced, as eight in every 100,000 Cambodian children was incarcerated last year.
“Young offenders who have committed minor offenses such as theft or drug use are currently tried as adults and often face prison time in areas shared with adults,” she said via email.
“Many of these children struggle to return to normal life.”