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Social affairs minister vows to better centres

Detainees wander the grounds of the Prey Speu social affairs centre
Detainees wander the grounds of the Prey Speu social affairs centre earlier this month in Phnom Penh. Pha Lina

Social affairs minister vows to better centres

Cambodia's social affairs minister promised yesterday to improve the Prey Speu social affairs centre and other detention centres across the Kingdom by increasing food rations and encouraging transparency with supporting NGOs.

The promise comes after the National Assembly’s eighth Commission on Health and Social Affairs requested the ministry to streamline the management of the detention centres, especially Prey Speu, which has long been criticised by NGOs for its reputation as a dumping ground and asylum for Phnom Penh’s “outcasts” and mentally ill residents.

In response to the request, Social Affairs Minister Vong Sauth said his ministry will work on amending a sub-decree adopted in 2006 that prevents human rights abuses against detainees.

“The ministry will work harder to improve the sub-decree with the help of experts working with national and international groups to safeguard their rights, especially children’s,” Sauth said.

By early 2015, the ministry plans to increase detainees’ food rations from about $0.40 cents to $1 per day.

Sauth added that they will also open some detention centres to organisations or individuals interested in visiting and extending help to detainees.

Phil Robertson, deputy director of Human Rights Watch Asia division, which has called for the closure of Prey Speu in the past, said that the ministry’s planned developments have come too late.

“It’s like putting a Band-Aid on a gushing wound,” Robertson said. “I see it as a manoeuvre to reduce pressure on the ministry . . . but there’s no way to fix the problem with the centres other than to have them shut down.”

Sauth said his ministry also plans to offer food rations to disabled citizens and train them in certain vocations.

ADDITIONAL REPORTING BY SARAH TAGUIAM

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