News / Asia

Rights Group Says Cambodia's Drug Treatment Centers Rife with Abuse

Human Rights Watch says instead of receiving therapy to wean them off drugs, drug addicts are subjected to gross abuses by the Cambodian police and military, which run the centers.

Daniel Schearf

The rights group Human Rights Watch says centers in Cambodia set up to treat drug addicts are instead illegally detaining, beating, torturing and raping them.

Human Rights Watch issued a report Monday saying drug treatment centers in Cambodia are rife with abuse and fail to give any support to drug addicts.

The rights group says many of drug abusers are detained illegally, often through street clean-up campaigns or after their relatives pay authorities to take them for what is supposed to be drug treatment.

But Human Rights Watch says instead of receiving therapy to wean them off drugs, they are subjected to gross abuses by the Cambodian police and military, which run the centers.

Joseph Amone, director of the health and human rights division at Human Rights Watch, says the detainees include the mentally ill and children.

"People in detention are being beaten, they're being whipped with electrical cables. They're being shocked with electric batons. And, we also found individuals who said they'd been raped and witnessed rapes in the centers," he said.

The detainees are forced work, in some cases doing construction work on the homes of staff members at the treatment centers.

Human Rights Watch interviewed more than 50 former detainees for the report.

Amone says those detained in the drug treatment centers said they were held against their will, without charge, and given no access to a lawyer.

"And, that's why we're calling for the immediate closure. Because, we don't think a system that is set up outside of judicial oversight, that's run - not by health professionals - but by the police and the military can ever deliver effective treatment or provide really adequate protections from human rights violations," he said.

Human Rights Watch reports the government says about 2,400 Cambodians were detained in 11 centers in 2008.

The World Health Organization in Cambodia says after leaving the centers almost all of the drug abusers return to drugs again.

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