Press ReleaseLICADHO to Mark International Children's Day with Prison Food Distributions
Cambodian League for the Promotion and Defense of Human Rights (LICADHO)
May 29, 2012 - LICADHO and its partner NGOs will mark International Children's Day today by distributing food and materials to children and pregnant women in 14 of Cambodia's prisons.
LICADHO has also organized special Children's Day events at Correctional Center 2 ("CC2"), Kandal provincial prison, and Siem Reap provincial prison. The events will include games, prizes and guest speakers who will discuss children's issues.
A total of 517 juvenile prisoners are incarcerated in the 14 prisons targeted for Children's Day celebrations. The General Department of Prisons defines juvenile prisoners as those who were between ages 14 and 17 when they committed their crime; they may continue to be classified as juvenile prisoners if they reach their 18th birthday in prison. Fourteen is the age of criminal responsibility in Cambodia.
The 14 prisons also house 16 pregnant women and 81 children living in prison with their mothers. Under new legislation that took effect in December 2011, children are permitted to stay with their mothers in prison only until the age of three. The previous age limit was six.
Despite the new law, LICADHO has documented an enormous increase in the number of children living with their mothers in prison since the beginning of 2011. As of April 2011, a total of 36 children were held in 18 prisons monitored by LICADHO. In May 2012, that number has more than doubled, to 81.
Children typically go to prison with their mothers - or in a few instances, with their fathers - when they have no other family to care for them.
"It is difficult to say exactly why the number of children living with their mothers in prison has risen so dramatically," said LICADHO President Dr. Pung Chhiv Kek. "But we have seen increased instances of whole families being picked up in crime sweeps. This can be an intimidation tactic, to encourage suspects to confess."
"In one prison, we documented an entire family of eight people, spanning three generations," Kek said. "They were detained on drug charges, but only one person seemed to actually be implicated in the crime."
With Cambodia's prison overcrowding crisis already stretching prison budgets thin, children often bear the brunt of the system's dysfunction. In many provincial prisons, for example, minor prisoners are integrated with the adult population. Food rations are inadequate and medical care is often non-existent.
The LICADHO care packages will reach a total of 1,014 recipients in 14 prisons, including juvenile prisoners, pregnant women, children living with their mothers, and the children of prison guards. The packages will include fruit, toothpaste, toothbrushes, soap, detergent, toys and soy milk.
The distributions will take place at the following prisons: Takhmao, CC2, Bantey Meanchey, Battambang, Kampong Chhnang, Pursat, Siem Reap, Svay Rieng, Kampong Thom, Kampong Cham, Sihanoukville, Kampong Speu, Koh Kong and Kampot.
To learn more about the plight of children in prison, please LICADHO's report, "A Review of the Conditions of Mothers, Pregnant Women and Young Children Living in Ten Cambodian Prisons" (June 2010), available at http://www.licadho-cambodia.org/reports.php?perm=141
For more information, please contact:
• Dr. Pung Chhiv Kek, LICADHO President, 012 802 506
• Nget Sokun, LICADHO Prison Project Supervisor, 016 797 305