About 15 street children were rounded up by Phnom Penh municipal officials late last month and sent to Banteay Meanchey province as part of a controversial strategy by the city to rid the streets of drug-addicted youths, a senior municipal official said.
The children were sent for treatment at an NGO in Banteay Meanchey, Phnom Penh Deputy Governor Ly Sou said Monday, but he could not remember the NGO’s name, or which part of the province it was located.
“The NGO has drug experts who could help those kids stop using drugs, which is why we need to send them there,” he said.
Banteay Meanchey authorities, however, said they knew nothing about the transfer.
“I am not aware of this matter because there were no drug addicts brought here,” provincial Governor Thach Khorn said by telephone Monday.
On Friday, Phnom Penh Governor Kep Chuktema said he ordered authorities to gather street children and detain them at municipal Military Police headquarters while they kicked their addictions. The strategy has sparked criticism from rights and aid workers, concerned that forcible treatment violated the children’s rights.
Contacted by telephone on Monday, Kep Chuktema said he was too busy to answer questions about the children reportedly sent to Banteay Meanchey, nor would he respond to questions about the criticisms over his order.
Within the past week, police in Daun Penh district have brought about 10 children, aged 13 to 17, to municipal military police headquarters, Yim Socheat, district deputy police chief said Monday.
Repeated phone calls to Municipal Military Police Chief Seng Song, who said Sunday his headquarters had detained only six or seven children, went unanswered Monday.