This report is based on information collected during field research conducted in Cambodia between May and July 2013. Human Rights Watch interviewed 33 people previously held in government drug detention centers. These include 13 people who currently use (or formerly used) drugs and who had been recently detained one or more times in a drug detention center; and 20 people who did not identify themselves as drug users, but who had nevertheless been recently detained one or more times in a center because they were homeless, beggars, street children, or sex workers. All individuals interviewed for this report had been detained in the 24-month period between July 2011 and June 2013.
Eleven of the former detainees were adult women. Three of the former detainees were children (under 18 years of age) at the time of their detention (one boy and two girls). All three children were adolescents, although their precise ages have not been included in order to protect their identities.
Human Rights Watch interviewed individuals formerly held in six of the eight current government drug detention centers, including centers run by the municipality of Phnom Penh, the Cambodian military, the gendarmerie, and police. Interviewees include people formerly detained in centers situated in the following provinces: Battambang, Banteay Meanchey, Siem Reap, Koh Kong, and the capital, Phnom Penh. Human Rights Watch was unable to identify and meet with individuals previously held in one center in Preah Sihanouk province and one center in Banteay Meanchey province.
Interviewees also included four people previously detained in one center run by the Ministry of Social Affairs, Veterans and Youth Rehabilitation (the Ministry of Social Affairs) at Prey Speu near Phnom Penh, although this center is not officially listed as a drug treatment center. Our research indicates that people who use drugs (as well as others) were regularly detained there during 2012.
We recruited interviewees in places where people who use drugs, homeless people, beggars, street children, and sex workers often live or work. All interviewees provided oral informed consent to participate. Interviews were conducted in private and individuals were assured that they could end the interview at any time or decline to answer any questions without consequence. Interviews were semi-structured and covered a number of topics related to illicit drug use, arrest, and detention. Where the interviewees spoke Khmer, interviews were consecutively interpreted between English and Khmer. The identity of these people has been disguised with randomly-selected pseudonyms and in some cases, certain other identifying information has been withheld to protect their privacy and safety.
Human Rights Watch also interviewed five current or former staff members of NGOs and UN agencies with knowledge and experience regarding Cambodia’s system of drug detention centers.
This report follows research undertaken between February and July 2009 and published in the report “Skin on the Cable”: The Illegal Arrest, Arbitrary Detention and Torture of People Who Use Drugs in Cambodia in January 2010. That report was based on interviews with 74 people— including 63 who had been detained one or more times in a drug detention center between 2006 and 2008. It also builds on research undertaken between July 2009 and April 2010 and published in the report Off the Streets: Arbitrary Detention and Other Abuses against Sex Workers in Cambodia in July 2010. That report was based on interviews with 94 female and transgender sex workers.
Where available, secondary sources—including media reports and reports from government sources or other organizations—have been included to corroborate information from former detainees and current or former staff members of NGOs and UN agencies.
In September 2013, Human Rights Watch wrote to the head of Cambodia’s National Authority for Combatting Drugs (NACD) to request information on Cambodia’s drug detention centers and solicit his response to violations documented in this report. This correspondence is attached in Annex 1. By the time this report went to print, Human Rights Watch had not received a response.
Also in September 2013, Human Rights Watch wrote to Vietnam’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs regarding Cambodia’s request for Vietnamese assistance regarding the planned “national” drug treatment center. This correspondence is attached in Annex 2. By the time this report went to print, Human Rights Watch had not received a response.