In a report released yesterday, Human Rights Watch accused drug treatment centers in Cambodia of sequestering patients who can suffer physical and sexual abuse.
Entitled “Skin on a Cable,” the report recounts the claims of detainees held against their will who say they suffered electrical shocks, whipping and rape during their time at the centers. The report calls on the government to close the facilities.
Government officials yesterday rejected the findings.
“Individuals in these centers are not being treated or rehabilitated; they are being illegally detained and often tortured,” Joseph Amon, director of health and human rights division for Human Rights Watch, said in a statement accompanying the report. “These centers do not need to be revamped or modified; they need to be shut down.”
According to the report, at least 11 such centers operate across the country under the auspices of various agencies and levels of government, including the Social Affairs Ministry, the military police and the Phnom Penh municipality.
A staff member “would use the cable to beat people,” the report quoted one 16-year-old former detainee as saying. “On each whip the person’s skin would come off and stick to the cable.”
“I think this is not a rehab center but a torture center,” said another former detainee.
The report also accused the centers of denying detainees access to legal representation while forcing them to donate blood, perform “painful” military-style drills and serving them rotten and insect-infested food.
Neak Yuthea, director of legislation, education and rehabilitation at the National Authority for Combating Drugs, denied the report’s claims.
“It is not true at all,” he said. “I think that [Human Rights Watch] does not understand how to make those addicted to get away from addiction.”
“The method is that they need to exercise and meditate…. They are monitored so that they respect the rules and they can get away from addiction.”
Mr Yuthea also brushed aside the report’s claim of forcible detention.
“We have never forced anyone to get into the centers,” he said.
Phnom Penh Municipal Governor Kep Chuktema said that he was unaware of the Human Rights Watch report and declined to comment.
“Please go to see by yourself whether it’s true or not,” he said.