Statement

LICADHO Calls for Immediate Closure of Prey Speu Center Following Two Deaths

Cambodian League for the Promotion and Defense of Human Rights (LICADHO)

November 3, 2015 - Following the deaths of two people unlawfully detained in the Prey Speu “Social Affairs” Center after having been arbitrarily arrested prior to Pchum Ben, LICADHO calls on relevant authorities to investigate the deaths and reiterates calls for the prompt closure of Prey Speu and all other such centers operating outside the criminal justice system. These are the second and third such deaths in less than a year.

According to several witnesses with first-hand knowledge of the deaths, one man, aged between 40 and 50 and reportedly mentally ill, drowned during Cambodia’s Pchum Penh celebration (11 – 13 October) in a small pond within the walls of Prey Speu. Days after, a woman in her 30s – detained in the center alongside her husband – died on the evening of October 16. LICADHO's investigation revealed that the cause of her death was not established prior to her cremation.

The well-documented systemic abuse and criminal negligence that takes place within the Prey Speu center is directly responsible for the deaths of three people within the past eleven months

“The well-documented systemic abuse and criminal negligence that takes place within the Prey Speu center is directly responsible for the deaths of three people within the past eleven months, and yet it remains open,” said Am Sam Ath, LICADHO Technical Coordinator. “The failure to shut down the center permanently risks even more deaths of Phnom Penh’s most vulnerable people.”

It is unclear how many people remain detained in Prey Speu center. Earlier this year, police rounded up a hundreds of homeless people in Phnom Penh, detaining them in Prey Speu in a series of ‘street sweeps’. Those targeted included homeless people, beggars, drug users and sex workers, who are typically sent to the center for ‘training and education’.

The round-ups are usually carried out by a mixed force of police, para-police “public order” contingents, and heavily-armed gendarmes, under the orders of Phnom Penh Municipality and its governor who has authority over the Prey Speu center. They are often accompanied by beatings, sexual abuse, and extortion from police.

“The extrajudicial detention within Prey Speu has been halted more than once following reports of abuse in the past,” said Am Sam Ath. “Regardless, authorities continuously resume use of the center and the bleak milestone of three deaths show that it is ‘business as usual.’”

For more information, please contact:
 Am Sam Ath, LICADHO Technical Coordinator, 012 327 770

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