Logo of Phnom Penh Post newspaper Phnom Penh Post - Scores of adults, children released from Prey Speu

Scores of adults, children released from Prey Speu

Detained people sit around the grounds of the notorious Prey Speu centre situated on the outskirts of Phnom Penh in 2015.
Detained people sit around the grounds of the notorious Prey Speu centre situated on the outskirts of Phnom Penh in 2015. Pha Lina

Scores of adults, children released from Prey Speu

The Ministry of Social Affairs yesterday claimed it had released scores of people from the notorious Prey Speu detention centre into the hands of NGOs, including children who had been detained without their parents for months on end.

Director of the municipal social affairs department Sorn Sophal said 58 people were handed over to Mith Samlanh, Plan International and Pour un Sourire d’Enfant (PSE) on January 16, though the latter two NGOs denied having accepted detainees.

“The youngest one is 5 years old . . . We rounded them up off the street because they were beggars and homeless and we sent them to Prey Speu,” Sophal said. “Now we found the NGO for them to stay with; now we integrate them.”

Im Sreypao, a project reintegration manager at Mith Samlanh, said they had taken in 39 people – 10 of them unattended children. She said nine boys immediately left the centre without taking any of the prepared food. “We didn’t even get a chance to find their parents for them; they wanted to leave, so we cannot force them to stay here,” she said.

She added they had given medical treatment to an 8-year-old girl who had developed a skin infection at the centre after she was plucked from Phnom Penh’s Koh Pich more than two months ago, and also helped her find her parents

Sreypao said the organisation had reunited 12 families with their relatives and provided them with food and counselling. “I saw they are very happy and they smile when they got out of the centre,” she said.

“Now they have freedom; now they can live as humans.” But at least 19 people remain unaccounted for, as Plan International and PSE said they did not take in any people from Prey Speu.

Iman Mooroka, spokesperson for UNICEF, said “children should not be separated from their families except under extreme circumstances”.

“The streets are clearly no place for children, however, taking children off the streets and placing them in an institution not suitable for children is not the solution,” she said.

Human Rights Watch deputy Asia director Phil Robertson slammed the continued involuntary detention of Phnom Penh’s so-called “undesirables”.

“There is something fundamentally wrong with the brains of the officials overseeing this process of arrest and detention that they think it is somehow OK to separate kids from their parents and force them to stay in this hellhole of a centre.”

MOST VIEWED

  • 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

  • Defence Ministry denies weapons in smuggling case came from Cambodia

    After a Thai national was arrested last week for allegedly smuggling guns from Cambodia to Thailand, Cambodia's Defence Ministry has claimed the weapons seized during the arrest are not used in Cambodia, despite the fact that both types of rifle seized are commonly found in

  • Shipwreck found off coast of Koh Kong

    Royal Cambodian Navy researchers are working to identify a decades-old shipwreck found earlier this month off the coast of Koh Kong province. Divers found the 70-metre-long wreck on April 4 about a mile from Koh Chhlam island, according to Navy officials. Deputy Navy Commander Tea Sokha,