Logo of Phnom Penh Post newspaper Phnom Penh Post - Questions arise over man’s death at Prey Speu

Questions arise over man’s death at Prey Speu

Detainees sit on the steps of a building at Phnom Penh’s Prey Speu social affairs centre last year
Detainees sit on the steps of a building at Phnom Penh’s Prey Speu social affairs centre last year. Erin Handley

Questions arise over man’s death at Prey Speu

A man has died at the notorious, overcrowded detention centre Prey Speu, the Ministry of Social Affairs confirmed yesterday, but conflicting accounts surround the circumstances of his death and no investigation has been launched.

Social Affairs spokesman Touch Channy said the unnamed man was 30 years old and was using drugs when he was rounded up off the streets and dumped at Prey Speu – where Phnom Penh’s “undesirable” drug users, mentally ill, sex workers and street children are often left to languish.

Channy said the man was only at the centre for one or two days before he died on September 25. “We did not do any investigation because the doctor said he had a heart attack because he is a drug user,” he said.

However, a senior official with knowledge of the case, who spoke on the condition of anonymity, claimed there had been an attempt at a “cover-up” and that “a security guard hit him” on the night he died.

Channy denied the accusations of assault at the hands of the guards.

Mith Samlanh Programme Manager Pin Sokhom said he had not been informed of the recent death, and it was impossible to tell if a withdrawal could be lethal without knowing the illicit substance used, but stressed the centre should have medical staff on site to take care of detainees.

Sokhom also noted the detention and subsequent death came during the government’s nationwide crackdown on drug dealers and users, which has seen almost 13,700 people arrested to date.

In August, UN Special Rapporteur Rhona Smith condemned the deteriorating conditions and arbitrary detention at the “rehabilitation centre”, saying there were 544 people detained there – almost double capacity.

The most recent death follows that of a recovering drug user with HIV in May, who, according to the Cambodia Daily, died 10 days after he was released from Prey Speu after being denied medication and methadone for more than a month.

The Post reported two deaths at the centre last year and two in 2015.

Phil Robertson, of Human Rights Watch, said Prey Speu was “beyond reform”.

“Prey Speu is a black hole for human rights abuses because anything goes, and there is never a credible investigation mounted into suspicious deaths like this one,” he said in an email.

“[A]s long as it remains open, more people will die there – so it’s time to do the right thing, and shut it down.”

MOST VIEWED

  • ‘Education’ a priority traffic-law penalty

    A top National Police official on June 21 neither rejected nor confirmed the authenticity of a leaked audio message, which has gone viral on social media, on a waiver of fines for a number of road traffic-related offences. General Him Yan, deputy National Police chief in

  • Pursat Ford assembly plant opens

    The Kingdom’s first Ford assembly plant was inaugurated on June 16 in Pursat province amid rising demand for brand-new vehicles among Cambodians. The facility is seen as a game changer for the domestic automobile industry, which could bring a wave of investors seeking to cash

  • Siem Reap’s $18M zoo said to educate public, help wildlife

    Angkor Wildlife and Aquarium Co Ltd has invested $18 million in a zoo in Siem Reap province, which will be opened in October to educate and promote animal conservation as well as attract national and international tourists. Currently, the Angkor Wildlife and Aquarium is building the

  • Volunteer scheme to foster ‘virtuous’ humanitarian spirit

    A senior education official said volunteer work contributes to solidarity and promotes a virtuous humanitarian spirit among the youth and communities. Serei Chumneas, undersecretary of state at the Ministry of Education, Youth and Sport, made the comment during the opening of a training programme called “

  • $50B infrastructure plan en route

    The government’s upcoming $50 billion,10-year infrastructure master plan will provide tremendous investment opportunities for domestic and foreign entities, transport experts and economists say. Minister of Public Works and Transport Sun Chanthol revealed the plan to Japanese ambassador to Cambodia Masahiro Mikami on June 15. At

  • Chinese firms unveil preliminary results on metro, monorail for capital

    Minister of Public Works and Transport Sun Chanthol and representatives from China Road and Bridge Corp (CRBC) and its parent company, the state-owned China Communications Construction Co Ltd (CCCC), met on June 24 for talks on results of the firms’ preliminary study on a potential metro