Logo of Phnom Penh Post newspaper Phnom Penh Post - Prey Speu probe sought

Prey Speu probe sought

Detainees sit on the steps of a building at Phnom Penh’s Prey Speu social affairs centre last year.
Detainees sit on the steps of a building at Phnom Penh’s Prey Speu social affairs centre last year. Erin Handley

Prey Speu probe sought

Human rights groups have called for an investigation into the recent death of a young man at the state-run “rehabilitation” centre Prey Speu, as officials continued to deflect responsibility yesterday.

Phnom Penh’s mentally ill, sex workers, street children and other so-called “undesirables” are routinely rounded up and detained arbitrarily at the centre, where a 30-year-old unnamed drug user died on September 25.

“This is yet another unexplained death in Prey Speu Center that needs to be investigated thoroughly and such state centers should be permanently closed as people are held illegally in dire conditions,” Naly Pilorge, of rights group Licadho, said in a message.

Simon Walker, representative of the UN Office of the High Commissioner of Human Rights in Cambodia, noted that UN Special Rapporteur Rhona Smith said earlier this year that “dramatic improvements were necessary to meet basic human rights standards”.

Specifically, he said, “appropriate professional medical support was not available at the time [of Smith’s visit] and . . . there were problems of ventilation, limited water and sanitation facilities and overcrowding issues”.

“[I]nvestigation of any harm done to someone in the centre, including his or her death, should be prompt so as to identify the cause of death or other harm and possibly to prevent similar events occurring in the future,” Walker said in an email.

A source with knowledge of the case previously alleged the man died after being hit by a security guard.

Although Social Affairs Ministry spokesman Touch Channy said the authorities had been informed of the death, Theng Kosal, Choam Chao commune police chief, said he had not been notified.

“No one reported it to us. As long as there are reported deaths from the centre, we will go to have a look,” he said.

Phnom Penh City Hall spokesman Met Measpheakdey said his office was informed.

“You need to understand, when we rounded him up, he had a mental illness and was homeless and we did not know what disease he has. We could not see by our own eyes; we did not know,” he said.

“If we had known he had the disease, we would surely never send him to a place which is not a hospital, to send him to die at [Prey Speu].”

He said despite the death, authorities would continue to round up the homeless “to control and take care of them”.

Mom Chandany, the current Municipal Social Affairs Department director overseeing the centre, maintained the death did not occur on her watch.

“The previous director was in charge . . . It did not happen under my management,” she said.

The previous director, Sorn Sophal, also denied he was in charge at the time. A document authorising security officers to conduct roundups at traffic lights dated September 25 – the same day as the man’s death – bears Chandany’s signature.

MOST VIEWED

  • ‘Education’ a priority traffic-law penalty

    A top National Police official on June 21 neither rejected nor confirmed the authenticity of a leaked audio message, which has gone viral on social media, on a waiver of fines for a number of road traffic-related offences. General Him Yan, deputy National Police chief in

  • Siem Reap’s $18M zoo said to educate public, help wildlife

    Angkor Wildlife and Aquarium Co Ltd has invested $18 million in a zoo in Siem Reap province, which will be opened in October to educate and promote animal conservation as well as attract national and international tourists. Currently, the Angkor Wildlife and Aquarium is building the

  • Volunteer scheme to foster ‘virtuous’ humanitarian spirit

    A senior education official said volunteer work contributes to solidarity and promotes a virtuous humanitarian spirit among the youth and communities. Serei Chumneas, undersecretary of state at the Ministry of Education, Youth and Sport, made the comment during the opening of a training programme called “

  • Chinese firms unveil preliminary results on metro, monorail for capital

    Minister of Public Works and Transport Sun Chanthol and representatives from China Road and Bridge Corp (CRBC) and its parent company, the state-owned China Communications Construction Co Ltd (CCCC), met on June 24 for talks on results of the firms’ preliminary study on a potential metro

  • Nestle’s debut may spur dairy market

    Leading confectionery manufacturer Nestle plans to invest in Cambodia by setting up an operation in the near future, a move majorly hailed by local dairy farmers as a means of boosting the fresh milk market in the Kingdom. During a visit by a delegation led

  • ACLEDA, WU to enable global money transfers

    Cambodia's largest commercial bank by total assets ACLEDA Bank Plc and global money transfer firm Western Union (WU) have partnered to offer customers cross-border money transfers to 200 countries via “ACLEDA mobile” app. In Channy, president and group managing director of ACLEDA, said the June 22 agreement