Logo of Phnom Penh Post newspaper Phnom Penh Post - New centre for mentally ill planned in wake of Prey Speu mass escape




New centre for mentally ill planned in wake of Prey Speu mass escape

A man (centre right) and 13-year-old Chork Samnang (centre left) stand in the middle of a street earlier this month after they escaped from Prey Speu centre. Photo supplied
A man (centre right) and 13-year-old Chork Samnang (centre left) stand in the middle of a street earlier this month after they escaped from Prey Speu centre. Photo supplied

New centre for mentally ill planned in wake of Prey Speu mass escape

After a mass escape of 70 inmates from the notorious Prey Speu centre on Sunday, the government said they would take mentally ill people rounded up off the streets and house them on the same site as a Kandal orphanage.

Chaom Chao commune police chief Heng Kosal said yesterday that the inmates fled the centre, but 10 guards chased after them. Eighteen people had still not been recaptured by the centre staff.

The news comes one month after Prime Minister Hun Sen demanded the Ministry of Social Affairs and Phnom Penh Municipal authorities either fix the centre for the city’s homeless and “undesirables”, or close it.

Among the escapees was 13-year-old Chork Samnang, who was found by local villagers with blood on his chest.

“We asked the guards if they hit the boy or not; the guards said they did not hit him. But because they were trying to chase them, he fell down; but the villagers said they suspected the guard may have hit the boy,” Kosal said.

He added Samnang did not file a complaint and only wanted to return home.

After an official visit last month, municipal and government authorities resolved to address a number of the centre’s significant failings, including lack of sleeping areas, support for the mentally ill, electricity and sewage pipes, and a five-month delay in paying contract workers.

Ministry of Social Affairs spokesman Touch Channy said Hun Sen had endorsed a plan to keep mentally ill detainees at the Kom Pong Kontouch orphanage centre in Kandal Stung district.

“Next week, a team from the ministry will go for location scouting to see how much land we will need for this mental health centre; we will stop keeping mentally disabled people in Prey Speu,” he said.

But Phil Robertson, deputy director at Human Rights Watch’s Asia division, described the government’s plan in an email as “more of that same failed approach”, which “will result in just another facility where abuses take place against some of the most vulnerable people in Cambodian society”.

“We’ve continually called for Prey Speu to be closed down… [the government needs to] implement a community-based assistance model that integrates rather than incarcerates, and provides voluntary treatment rather than threats and abuse.”

Naly Pilorge, director of rights group Licadho, agreed the centre could not be reformed and should be shut down. “The centre has always been a place where not just abuses [occur], but also elements of corruption for people to be released,” she said.

Phnom Penh City Hall spokesman Meas Chanyada said the contract workers had now been compensated for their months of unpaid labour.

MOST VIEWED

  • School reopening to be postponed until November

    Minister of Education Hang Chuon Naron on Tuesday wrote to Prime Minister Hun Sen requesting a delay of school reopening across the Kingdom until November, when the new academic year begins. In his letter, Chuon Naron said the postponement is warranted to avoid the new

  • Foreigners in Kingdom must now register in FPCS system

    The Ministry of Interior’s General Department of Immigration (GDI) announced that it would not grant visa extensions to foreigners staying in Cambodia if their names are not listed on the Foreigners Present in Cambodia System (FPCS) by July 1. Foreign nationals can register in the

  • Covid-19 at ‘alarming rate’, health ministry says

    The Covid-19 risk level for individual transmission is at an “alarming rate” in the Kingdom and its probability is “not low”, warned Health Ministry spokesperson Or Vandine. “Cambodia’s coronavirus scenario is classified as being at an early stage of the pandemic because of ongoing

  • Mandatory quarantine for 30,000 workers begins

    Some of the roughly 30,000 workers from factories and enterprises across the Kingdom who went on leave during Khmer New Year began their government-imposed 14-day quarantine on Monday. Speaking at a press conference while visiting workers at the Phnom Penh Special Economic Zone on Monday, Ministry

  • Unemployed to get $40 per month

    The Ministry of Labour and Vocational Training has instructed enterprises, business owners and travel agencies in five provinces to prepare the proper forms for the suspension of employment contracts. This, it said, will make it easier for the ministry to transfer $40 a month to workers

  • Gov’t travel ban flouted

    While the majority of Cambodians have paid heed to Prime Minister Hun Sen’s order to stay put and not travel during the Khmer New Year – the holidays of which were also postponed – several hundred have left Phnom Penh nonetheless. They have allegedly breached provincial

  • G20 energy ministers struggle to finalise oil output cuts

    Top oil producers struggled to finalise production cuts during a virtual summit held by Group of 20 (G20) energy ministers on Friday, despite US President Donald Trump’s mediation efforts to end a standoff with Mexico. The final G20 communique appeared to gloss over simmering divisions

  • Kingdom revises travel restriction order

    The government on Friday eased the district and provincial border restrictions issued on Thursday. People are now allowed to cross districts within their provinces. Phnom Penh and Kandal province are to be treated as a single region where people are allowed to travel freely. In

  • Private schools struggling

    The Cambodian Higher Education Association has claimed that 113 private educational establishments are facing bankruptcy because of their inability to pay rent and staff salaries in light of nationwide school closures caused by the Covid-19 outbreak. It said the financial trouble started when the Ministry of

  • Khmer New Year holidays postponed

    In an effort to halt Covid-19 infections in the Kingdom, Prime Minister Hun Sen has postponed the Khmer New Year holidays scheduled from April 13 to 16. While the people will not have their usual break, nor will there be any public celebrations or gatherings at pagodas,