Logo of Phnom Penh Post newspaper Phnom Penh Post - Questions arise over man’s death at Prey Speu

Questions arise over man’s death at Prey Speu

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

Questions arise over man’s death at Prey Speu

A man has died at the notorious, overcrowded detention centre Prey Speu, the Ministry of Social Affairs confirmed yesterday, but conflicting accounts surround the circumstances of his death and no investigation has been launched.

Social Affairs spokesman Touch Channy said the unnamed man was 30 years old and was using drugs when he was rounded up off the streets and dumped at Prey Speu – where Phnom Penh’s “undesirable” drug users, mentally ill, sex workers and street children are often left to languish.

Channy said the man was only at the centre for one or two days before he died on September 25. “We did not do any investigation because the doctor said he had a heart attack because he is a drug user,” he said.

However, a senior official with knowledge of the case, who spoke on the condition of anonymity, claimed there had been an attempt at a “cover-up” and that “a security guard hit him” on the night he died.

Channy denied the accusations of assault at the hands of the guards.

Mith Samlanh Programme Manager Pin Sokhom said he had not been informed of the recent death, and it was impossible to tell if a withdrawal could be lethal without knowing the illicit substance used, but stressed the centre should have medical staff on site to take care of detainees.

Sokhom also noted the detention and subsequent death came during the government’s nationwide crackdown on drug dealers and users, which has seen almost 13,700 people arrested to date.

In August, UN Special Rapporteur Rhona Smith condemned the deteriorating conditions and arbitrary detention at the “rehabilitation centre”, saying there were 544 people detained there – almost double capacity.

The most recent death follows that of a recovering drug user with HIV in May, who, according to the Cambodia Daily, died 10 days after he was released from Prey Speu after being denied medication and methadone for more than a month.

The Post reported two deaths at the centre last year and two in 2015.

Phil Robertson, of Human Rights Watch, said Prey Speu was “beyond reform”.

“Prey Speu is a black hole for human rights abuses because anything goes, and there is never a credible investigation mounted into suspicious deaths like this one,” he said in an email.

“[A]s long as it remains open, more people will die there – so it’s time to do the right thing, and shut it down.”

MOST VIEWED

  • NY sisters inspired by Khmer heritage

    Growing up in Brooklyn, New York, Cambodian-American sisters Edo and Eyen Chorm have always felt a deep affinity for their Cambodian heritage and roots. When the pair launched their own EdoEyen namesake jewellery brand in June, 2020, they leaned heavily into designs inspired by ancient Khmer

  • Cambodia records first Omicron community case

    The Ministry of Health on January 9 reported 30 new Covid-19 cases, 29 of which were imported and all were confirmed to be the Omicron variant. The ministry also reported 11 recoveries and no new deaths. Earlier on January 9, the ministry also announced that it had detected the Kingdom's

  • The effects of the USD interest rate hike on Cambodian economy

    Experts weigh in on the effect of a potential interest rate expansion by the US Federal Reserve on a highly dollarised Cambodia Anticipation of the US Federal Reserve’s interest rate hike in March is putting developing economies on edge, a recent blog post by

  • Omicron patients can stay home: PM

    Prime Minister Hun Sen has given the green light for anyone who contracts the SARS-CoV-2 Omicron mutation or any other variant to convalesce or receive treatment at home or in any other reasonable non-healthcare setting. The new decision supersedes a restriction on home care for

  • PM eyes Myanmar peace troika

    Prime Minister Hun Sen has suggested that ASEAN member states establish a tripartite committee or diplomatic troika consisting of representatives from Cambodia, Brunei and Indonesia that would be tasked with mediating a ceasefire in Myanmar. The premier also requested that Nippon Foundation chairman Yohei Sasakawa

  • Cambodia’s first ever anime festival kicks off Jan 22 at capital’s F3 centre

    Phnom Penh's first ever Anime Festival will bring together fans, artists, shops and other local businesses with ties to the Japanese animation style for cosplay competitions, online games, pop-up shops and more on January 22, with Friends Futures Factory (F3) hosting. F3 is a project that