A Change of Guard

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Thursday, 5 May 2016

Homeless ‘don’t look good’

Homeless people sit on the ground in Phnom Penh last year after they were rounded up by the authorities to await transportation to the Prey Speu Social Affairs Centre. Photo supplied

Homeless ‘don’t look good’
Thu, 5 May 2016 ppp
Kong Meta and Erin Handley

Police forcibly removed a dozen of the city’s homeless – four of them children – from the streets of central Phnom Penh yesterday, carting them off to the notorious Prey Speu Social Affairs Centre, where two people died last November.

While such “round-ups” routinely intensify before weeks of celebration – such as Khmer New Year and the Water Festival – police and municipal authorities denied this latest wave of collections was linked to the upcoming holiday for the King’s birthday.

Instead, they said, it was part of an ongoing campaign to beautify the streets.

Chamkarmon district governor Prom Somkhan confirmed beggars were “cleared” near intersections yesterday morning.

“It is too bad for our beautiful Phnom Penh to have beggars out standing at the traffic lights,” Somkhan said.

The Daun Penh deputy district police chief, Yos Yuthy, said his officers round up between 10 and 20 homeless people three times per week, having collected just shy of 300 since January.

Meas Chanyada, administrative director of Phnom Penh Municipal Hall, defended the sweeps, but admitted detainees were cycled back onto the streets after a stint at Prey Speu.

“We cannot let them beg at … public places; it is our country’s image. It is bad when foreign tourists see it,” he said.

“We don’t discriminate against them, but they don’t look good – it is anarchy; it is messy.”

According to Touch Channy, director-general of the Ministry of Social Affairs, no changes have yet been made in the wake of consistent and vehement calls to close the centre, apart from re-naming it “Phnom Penh Transit Centre” (the institution was formerly rebranded as Por Sen Chey Vocational Training Centre).

He cited building toilets and sleeping quarters as the most urgent measures, and while two working groups had been set up to research detainees’ needs, “we have not got any results yet”.

“We know what we need to renovate; but the actual report has not yet been sent to me,” Channy said.

Friends International, which is working with the government to offer support to street people both in and out of Prey Speu, said round-ups did more harm than good by interfering with the NGO’s street research.

“We don’t want to see anyone on the street, but there is a lot of work to be done,” said Vuthy Sokhna, the NGO’s communications officer.

“When the government just rounds them up and puts them into Prey Speu … that is not a sustainable solution. We need to provide a job, school or placement – something for them to have a better future,” he said.


Anonymous said...

Ah Prom Somkhan chkout lop lop [Chamkarmon district governor Prom Somkhan confirmed beggars were “cleared” near intersections yesterday morning.

“It is too bad for our beautiful Phnom Penh to have beggars out standing at the traffic lights,” Somkhan said.]

How about having social programs to help these less fortunate citizens instead of rounding them up like animals Ah pleur!

Kim Ea said...

Be come poor a homeless is not a crime period .

Anonymous said...

Yeah I agree, being poor and homeless is not a crime, but having sex with a girl who were as young as your daughter then ask her to have an abortion is a crime. Oh wait, he has Parliament immunity. It's not a crime.

Cambodia is so corrupted now, even the ones who claim to opposed the corrupted regime are also corrupted. How low does Kem Sokha have to stoop so that he would lose the support from the people? Are his daughters going to be safe from him?