Logo of Phnom Penh Post newspaper Phnom Penh Post - Phnom Penh government unveils new wing at controversial rehab centre

Phnom Penh government unveils new wing at controversial rehab centre

Content image - Phnom Penh Post
Men sit outside the gates of Phnom Penh’s Orkas Knhom Center last year. Pha Lina

Phnom Penh government unveils new wing at controversial rehab centre

Speaking at the inauguration of a new wing at the controversial Orkas Knhom – or “My Chance” – drug rehabilitation centre, Phnom Penh Governor Pa Socheatvong maintained there was a need to factor in human rights concerns when tackling drug issues.

His remarks were made on the eve of the arrival in Phnom Penh of Philippines President Rodrigo Duterte, who has drawn criticism since coming to office for his policy of suspected drug dealers being shot on sight; the timing was not lost on Socheatvong.

“In the Philippines, the president doesn’t excuse drug traffickers. Now, they are accusing him of human rights abuses. So, how can we solve the problem of human rights and drugs?” Socheatvong said. “We don’t excuse traffickers, but users we regard as victims who have to be rehabilitated.”

The governor said Cambodia had progressed from being “just a crossroads for drug criminals, passing through Cambodia to other countries”, to a place where drug use is taking hold in society.

However, My Chance itself has been accused of human rights abuses in the past. A 2010 report by Human Rights Watch (HRW) was damning of Cambodia’s rehab facilities. It found that beatings and torture were rife and described clients being subjected to forced detention, all in service of treatment it described as ineffective.

Socheatvong yesterday appeared to acknowledge the past criticism, while also alluding to the notorious Prey Speu social affairs centre but maintained “we need such a place”. Asked yesterday whether the issues in the Human Rights Watch report had been addressed, My Chance director Mom Chandany said she was unaware of them.

“I have no idea; I don’t know where they got their information from,” she said. She did, however, answer the forced detention allegation, saying that the decision to release patients was left to the centre’s doctors. “Some ask to leave, but we don’t let them because they are not yet rehabilitated,” she said.

HRW’s deputy Asia director Phil Robertson, however, stood by the 2010 report, and said doctors’ oversight didn’t address the problem of detention at the centre being “arbitrary, without access to lawyers or a court trial”.

Meanwhile, Pin Sokhom, of NGO Friends International’s Mith Samlanh rehabilitation program, said drug use is becoming “more and more prevalent in Cambodian society”, and called for a more holistic approach to rehabilitation.

Additional reporting by Jack Davies

MOST VIEWED

  • Reuters: US Embassy fired 32 staff members for sharing pornography

    The United States Embassy in Phnom Penh has fired 32 non-diplomatic staff members who were allegedly caught exchanging pornographic images and video, including of minors, according to the news agency Reuters. Four sources, who spoke on condition of anonymity, told Reuters the content was shared in

  • Our 2018 guide to spending Khmer New Year in Phnom Penh

    Khmer New Year festivities are upon us. For the next few days, travellers will be making their way to their home provinces to eat, celebrate, play traditional games and visit a pagoda with offerings. If you will be staying put in Phnom Penh for the

  • US think tank warns of China's 'ulterior motives'

    A US think tank on Tuesday warned that spreading Chinese investment in the Indo-Pacific follows a pattern of leveraging geopolitical influence at the expense of the nations receiving investment, including Cambodia. The report looks at a sample of 15 Chinese port development projects, noting that the

  • More than three tonnes of ivory reportedly bound for Cambodia seized in Mozambique

    A total of 3.5 tonnes of ivory reportedly bound for Cambodia was seized by authorities in Mozambique late last week, according to the NGO Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES). CITES' information was based on a report from the