The uniqueness of leper colonies will soon be called into question with the accusation by human rights groups of the Cambodian Government herding HIV and AIDS-infected individuals and families into a segregated “AIDS colony” just outside the Cambodian capital Phnom Penh.
Over one hundred human rights groups from all around the world have expressed concern to Cambodian Prime Minister Hun Sen and Health Minister Mam Bun Heng over the deplorable conditions, as more than forty families have been forced to endure since being rounded up from the Borei Keila district of Phnom Penh and sent to Tuol Sambo approximately twenty-five kilometers away.
The living conditions were deemed “life-threatening” in the letter, and described by Human Rights Watch as “crude, green metal sheds” that “lack running water and adequate sanitation.” Those with HIV and AIDS are particularly vulnerable to the health risks posed by such conditions, and according to Rebecca Schleifer of Human Rights Watch, “For them, these substandard conditions can mean a death sentence or a ticket to a hospital.”
Mann Chhoeun, Phnom Penh’s Deputy Governor spoke with the English-language Phnom Penh Post, stating that they are working on bringing clean water to the inhabitants of the village, as well as providing permanent medical assistance in the form of The Center of Hope, a mission from a local hospital that assists with the medical concerns of the poor. A representative of The Center of Hope, however, said it had no plans to open up a permanent facility in the area, but will continue their weekly mobile health services.
Approximately 67,200 adults and 3,800 children in Cambodia are infected with HIV or AIDS. Those relocated are comprised of taxi drivers, seamstresses, cleaners, and day laborers. Their experience is made all the more difficult by the lack of available jobs in such a remote city, as well as the increasing danger of insufficient medical help.