The government on Friday launched several strategies to protect juvenile offenders, including removing them from prisons to be put into rehabilitation centres, a move also aimed at reducing congestion in prisons.
Interior Minister Sar Kheng on Friday said at the launch of the Strategic and Operational Plan for the implementation of the Juvenile Justice Law that there are 1,535 children in all 28 prisons in the Kingdom, of whom 152 are serving time with the rest yet to go on trial.
The strategic plan was jointly launched by the Justice and Social Affairs ministries in collaboration with Unicef in order to implement the Juvenile Justice Law, which came into effect last year.
Mr Kheng said that the main purpose of the strategic and operational plan is to improve the lives of children in conflict with the law by focusing on two objectives: to build a sustainable juvenile justice system and to provide effective protection and support to children in conflict with the law.
“I agree that juvenile justice is a new thing for Cambodia, but the government is highly committed to develop this plan to create a standard and operational base to ensure respect for human rights, especially children’s rights,” Mr Kheng said.
He said the most number of detained juveniles are in Phnom Penh followed by Siem Reap and Banteay Meanchey provinces and these three areas can be used by relevant ministries, institutions, enforcement authorities and also experts to study why children commit crimes and also look for ways to re-educate them in accordance with laws and provisions established to ensure their rights and benefits.
“Of course, we never want anyone in detention, whether children or adults, and today the government is working hard to implement mechanisms to reduce the number of detainees in prisons,” he said.
The Juvenile Justice Law was introduced last year to reform the juvenile justice system of Cambodia.
It focuses on finding other ways to respond to alleged youth criminality rather than punishment, which is current practised in the country because it lacks a system tailored to the needs of children.
Vong Sauth, Social Affairs Minister, said in a joint statement on Friday that approximately 23 out of every 100,000 Cambodian children are incarcerated.
He said the number of children in Cambodia’s prisons increased from 336 in 2014 to 1,535 this year, indicating that more efforts are urgently needed so that children in conflict with the law are removed from the criminal justice system into more child friendly mechanisms.