Children’s Day in Siem Reap Prison

On Monday, 28th of May 2012, a team of PJJ workers arrived at Siem Reap prison bearing colorful gift bags, blankets and high spirits. Their mission was to try and lift the spirits of the child detainees within the prison, consisting of approximately 60 boys and 3 girls between the ages of 14 and 18. The events were held in the main hall in the prison, and were attended by the Deputy Governor of Siem Reap, the head of the Siem Reap prison, and former PJJ director Mrs. Sim Souyeang. Upon the commencement of the ceremony, each of these notable personalities gave speeches on the themes of children’s rights, reform and hope for the future, to which the children listened with interest.

On the previous day, a number of PJJ staff had gone into the prison and provided the children with a theme on which they could write poetry or essays regarding their future lives. They were also provided with drawing materials and given the time to illustrate pictures on this same theme. Thus, upon the conclusion of the speeches, a number of selected boys read out their poems and essays to those present, taking great pride in their outstanding work. Following this, a hearty meal, provided by PJJ, was distributed among the children.

After this, it was time for the fun to begin. The children returned to the hall where a band had been set up on the stage, replete with keyboard, guitar and 3 singers who proceeded to perform for the children. After their performance, they invited approximately 10 talented boys from among the children to perform individually on stage. Each sang with passion, performing Khmer popular songs accompanied by the band. The performers were received and cheered on enthusiastically by their peers and the children as well as the PJJ staff, who frequently arose to dance to the singing. A strong feeling of friendship and support was clearly present among the detainees, and it was an honor for PJJ to be able to witness and encourage this through the celebrations.

It was then time for PJJ to reward the children for their talented performances- both in singing, as well as drawing and writing. Approximately 10 children were given gifts from PJJ in recognition of their notable talent, as both a reward and an encouragement to use these valuable gifts in the future. Such children may be temporarily incarcerated, but amongst them they shared copious amounts of talent and passion in these various arts; upon their release, they possess the potential to become highly successful if given the necessary support and rehabilitation that young people in trouble with the law require. The activities conducted by PJJ aimed to strengthen the children’s sense of self worth, to provide the confidence to return to society feeling like they have something valuable to contribute.

PJJ then gave all children, including the young children who reside in the prison with their incarcerated mothers, a gift bag containing a blanket, various essential toiletries, and a variety of foods. The children received these gifts with great gratitude.

A number of the PJJ lawyers had previously worked with the children who attended the celebration and were greeted with smiles.

There are over 700 children in Cambodian prisons and PJJ is only able to make a difference to the lives of a small number of them. It is with this in mind that PJJ aims to expand its organization and continue to celebrate children’s day in provinces around the country so that all of these children may experience a small amount of kindness, and be reminded of the existence of their rights regardless of their incarceration.