A fresh start and a new life are on the horizon for over 800 individuals battling substance use disorders in Banteay Meanchey province.

The Ministry of Social Affairs, Veterans and Youth Rehabilitation reports that many are already undergoing rehabilitation and vocational training at Phnom Bak New Life Centre.

Touch Channy, spokesperson for the ministry, recently confirmed that the 866 individuals are currently enrolled at the centre, whose comprehensive approach includes education on the ramifications of drug use, drug control laws, health and hygiene, and the prevention of STIs and HIV/AIDS.

Channy elaborated on the comprehensive approach to recovery at the centre, noting the collaboration between medical professionals and religious educators.

The psychological and scientific instruction is guided by experienced medics from the provincial health department who work closely with the individuals at the centre to help them understand the complex nature of addiction and the paths to recovery.

Alongside this clinical support, the centre also incorporates spiritual guidance. Religious education, drawing from both Buddhist and Christian traditions, is provided to nourish the spiritual needs of those in rehabilitation. This combination of scientific understanding and spiritual reflection creates a holistic approach to healing. But the support doesn’t end with personal and spiritual growth as there is a practical dimension to the assistance as well.

“The primary objective for those in the centre is drug rehabilitation. Subsequently, we also provide these individuals with short-term vocational training,” said Channy.

The centre is offering more than just medical treatment to those overcoming substance use disorders.

Individuals at the treatment facility are provided with vocational training opportunities designed to equip them with valuable life skills. These include hands-on training in agriculture, poultry farming, vegetable cultivation, fish and frog farming, pig raising and fruit processing.

In addition to agricultural pursuits, the centre’s attendees can also engage in various artisan crafts. Tailoring skills are taught, encompassing areas such as cloth sewing and rug weaving. The broad range of vocational offerings not only fosters new skills but also instils a sense of purpose and accomplishment, crucial components in the journey to recovery.

Beyond agriculture and artisan crafts, Phnom Bak New Life Centre extends its vocational training to include a wide array of technical skills. Individuals in the programme can participate in electrician courses, learn about air conditioner repair, or develop skills in plumbing, construction and car mechanics. They can even explore dishwasher manufacturing.

Further enriching the educational opportunities, UNESCO supports special programmes tailored for students enrolled in the Basic Education Equivalency Programme (BEEP). This collaboration underscores the commitment to provide a well-rounded education, preparing those in recovery for a brighter future.

Channy emphasised that discipline is vital at Phnom Bak New Life Centre and similar facilities overseen by the social affairs ministry. He explained that the centres operate with disciplined control, similar to soldiers, to ensure adherence to rules and prevent individuals from losing control.

Banteay Meanchey deputy governor Ros Sophany declined to comment on August 6. Soum Chankea, the provincial coordinator of rights group ADHOC in Banteay Meanchey, was unreachable.

Located in Phnom Bak village of Serey Sophorn town’s Teuk Thla commune, Phnom Bak New Life Centre spans 6,489sqm and includes 11 buildings. The centre now occupies the space that once housed the COERR Vocational Training Centre, founded in 1993 by the Thai government.

Inaugurated on April 24, 2007, the centre was established through a ministry Prakas dated June 6, 2006. It now functions under the Banteay Meanchey provincial social affairs department. This monumental effort symbolises a community-wide dedication to healing, recovery and the empowerment of individuals to begin anew.