Amid worries over Phnom Penh Governor Kep Chuktema’s announcement Friday that he has ordered police to round up drug-addicted street children and force them to kick their habits, police and street youths said the idea is nothing new.
Mom Sovath, Dangkao district police chief, said Monday that police in his district have been pulling drug addicts off the streets for a long time.
“We arrest glue-sniffing children every week,” he said. “Around five to seven are collected and detained at the district office for education.” Homeless orphans are sent to an education center for a month or two until they kick their habits, he said.
A group of three boys interviewed in a park just west of the Japanese Friendship bridge said they had not heard of any new round-ups of children but that police frequently harassed them and sometimes detained them.
“I was arrested a few times and sent to an education center in Meanchey district,” said a 16-year-old boy who identified himself as Treng. “When I was at the education center I was beaten a lot by older people who stayed at the center.”
Treng and his friends said they live under the bridge and scavenge trash to earn enough to survive.
Lim Meng Huor, chief of the children’s welfare office at the municipal social labor department, denied that children at the Meanchey district education center are beaten by older detainees.
“The elderly people there are so old they have no physical energy to beat the kids,” he said.
He said he did not remember how many people are detained in Phnom Penh education centers, or the number of the directors’ phone numbers, and declined to comment on the number of education centers in Phnom Penh.
(Additional reporting by Solana Pyne)