Local human rights group Licadho issued an official statement Saturday calling for the “immediate and complete” closure of Koh Kor and Prey Speu social affairs centers, which they said have been used for the “systematic unlawful detention” of sex workers and other vulnerable people arrested on Phnom Penh’s streets.
The Koh Kor center was emptied of nearly all 80 detainees following a June 18 Licadho letter to the government. Prey Speu remained open as of the end of last week.
Licadho officials visited Koh Kor on June 17 and saw two seriously ill people among the approximately 20 detainees locked together in one room. One of the ailing detainees was an older woman named Un Sopul, who was comatose on the floor and died two days later after allegedly having been deprived medical attention.
Another detainee reportedly drowned in the river after escaping from Koh Kor on June 20 with two other detainees, Licadho said.
Koh Kor was technically closed June 24, but the center’s director, Chea Sareoun, said five children are still staying there.
“We do not know what to do with them even though it is closed…. They have no place to go. We must keep them,” he said, adding that everyone who stayed there had done so voluntarily.
He declined to comment on Un Sopul’s case and referred further questions to Phnom Penh head of social affairs, Chea San, who could not be reached Sunday.
Chea San’s deputy, Koy Kim Lean, said Sunday that she hadn’t been to Koh Kor for 10 years.
“Ten years ago, when I was in charge at Koh Kor, there were vocational training services, but right now, I don’t know,” she said.
According to Licadho, no vocational training services were being provided at Koh Kor or Prey Speu, which is in Phnom Penh’s Chom Chao commune.
“These are not rehabilitation or education centers,” Licadho Director Naly Pilorge said in the statement. “They are prison camps where people who have not been charged with committing any crime are detained illegally in abominable conditions.”