Cambodian Journalists Alliance Association

Cambodia to Roll Out Social Protection for Pregnant Prisoners

Pregnant women detained in a prison in May 2024. (Licadho)
Pregnant women detained in a prison in May 2024. (Licadho)

Pregnant women in prisons would be receiving social protection such as health checks before giving birth and up to the time their child is two-years-old and other supports, like cash aid, Prime Minister Hun Manet said on Thursday. 

Speaking at a graduation ceremony and the inauguration of a teachers’ dormitory at the Phnom Penh Teacher Education College, he requested the Ministry of Labor and Vocational Training and Ministry of Social Affairs, Veterans and Youth Rehabilitation (MoSVY) to work with relevant parties to study the proposal. 

“There are also pregnant women in prison, and they need care,” he said. “The mother made a mistake, but the child didn’t. The amount calculated wouldn’t be overly large, so please consider the benefits of providing support to women in prison like [how we] support civil servants. This is humanitarian work.” 

Toch Channy, spokesperson of MoSVY, said the national social assistance fund has been supporting pregnant women and their children under the age of two, thanks to the ID poor program.

“We provide aid four times during their pregnancy and 10 times postpartum as well as health checks and vaccination for children until the age of two,” he added. 

Channy said the National Social Assistance was looking to apply the same model for women who are in prison. “We considered it even before the PM said it. Now, we are waiting for the government’s decision on which model to use,” he added.

Katta Orn, spokesperson of the Ministry of Labor and Vocational Training, said they will cooperate with relevant ministries to effectively implement the prime minister’s recommendations.

He reiterated the type of support given by MoSVY as they worked together to help pregnant women pre- and post-delivery until the child is two years of age. Pregnant mothers received an allowance of 80,000 riel each time and during delivery.

Nuth Savna, spokesperson for the General Department of Prisons, could not be reached for comment. 

Licadho operations director Am Sam Ath said pregnant women and those with children face a lot of difficulties, especially lack of food in the prison. They receive 3,500 riel per day. 

“We see them having problems with food, hygiene, health, pregnancy and other environmental issues,” he said, adding that even ordinary pregnant women who are not imprisoned find it difficult to cope. 

Although pregnant women in prison undergo medical checks, their predicament was different from pregnant women who were not imprisoned because of the lack of care for them and their baby’s health.

“I think the prime minister’s recommendation would help pregnant women,” Sam Ath said.

However, he said, if a case involving a pregnant woman and with children was not serious, they should not be put in pretrial detention due to the challenging conditions including crowding in the prisons.

According to Licadho, as of April 2024, 43 imprisoned women were pregnant while 92 young children (50 girls and 42 boys) were living with their mothers in prison.

In their most crucial early years, young children do not have access to good nutrition and basic necessities including milk bottles and diapers, as well as a sleeping or play area. 

“Pregnant women or women in prison with their children are often subject to poor conditions, with little care for both their wellbeing,” it stated.