Government officials from three separate ministries met on Tuesday to formulate a unified rejection of a Human Rights Watch report released last week that accused Cambodia’s drug detention centers of serious abuse.
Neak Yuthea, director of legislation, education and rehabilitation at the National Authority for Combating Drugs, which hosted the meeting, said officials from the ministries of Defense, Interior and Social Affairs attended.
“We want to clarify that what [Rights Watch] reported was false,” Mr Yuthea said. “[Drug addicts] are not our enemies. Why would we torture them? What we have tried to do for a good cause they try to turn it into black,” he said of the report.
Mr Yuthea declined to provide further details of the discussions, but added that the officials would meet again today to issue a joint statement denouncing the report.
Joseph Amon, Human Rights Watch director of health and human rights, said his organization’s repeated requests to meet with the government about the report were ignored.
“We have…been asking the government to meet with us, and as yet they have not replied to our request,” he wrote in an e-mail from the organization’s headquarters in New York.
Released Jan 18, the “Skin on the Cable” report is a collection of interviews with 53 former detainees of the government’s 11 drug treatment centers who told of suffering beatings and sexual abuse from staff.
The human rights group also accused the centers of detaining people illegally and doing nothing to address the country’s drug problem.
With the centers falling under the jurisdiction of different ministries, the government’s response to the report-while consistent-has lacked a single voice.
Social Affairs Ministry spokesman Lim El Djurado last week rejected the report’s claims, specifically those regarding torture of addicts.
“Our centers have never tortured those people,” he said. “I think that such accusations are not acceptable. Our officials are not Khmer Rouge-era officials.”
Lieutenant General Sao Sokha, commander of the national military police which oversees at least two of the treatment centers, said last week that the centers are administered according to the law. “We do everything in compliance with the law,” he said last week.