City officials partner with NGO in sweeping of capital's streets, which groups say is part of ASEAN preparation.
Photo by: Tracey Shelton
A homeless child sits alone on Sunday on a Phnom Penh street.
CITY Hall agreed Friday to partner with the local NGO Mith Samlanh as part of a campaign to rid the capital's streets of beggars and homeless families in advance of this week's ASEAN-EU Ministerial Meeting, the NGO's founder told the Post Sunday.
Sebastien Marot said the partnership involves enrolling street children in a "weeklong holiday camp" in Kampong Speu province, thereby allowing them to avoid being caught up in the latest so-called "cleanup" effort spearheaded by municipal officials.
Rights groups charged last week that City Hall launched the cleanup effort early Thursday morning with the detention of 30 beggars, suspected drug users, sex workers and members of homeless families, who were taken from Phnom Penh's Daun Penh district and turned over to the Municipal Department of Social Affairs.
Past cleanup efforts have led to the detention of scores of street kids along with drug addicts and the mentally ill in government-run rehabilitation centres, though this practice was roundly vilified last year by rights groups and NGOs who said that inmates at the centres had been beaten and starved.
Marot said Mith Samlanh representatives met with two municipal officials Friday to propose the "holiday camp model" for street children, to which he said the officials readily agreed.
Though the NGO has undertaken similar efforts during past cleanups, Marot said Friday's meeting marked the first time municipal officials had agreed to get involved.
He said 50 street children had been transported from Phnom Penh to the camp in Kampong Speu - which provides food, medical services and "plenty of recreational opportunities" - and that 10 more would join them on Monday.
Sweeping the streets
Ban Vutha, chief of administration at the municipal Social Affairs Department, said the 30 people detained last week had been given the option of going to an NGO-run facility or a government-run rehabilitation centre.
"The police don't arrest them," he said. "They just collect them to educate them and take them to a suitable place."
He said the latest cleanup effort was part of a broader effort to prepare for the ASEAN-EU Ministerial Meeting, though Doung Socheat, Daun Penh district police chief, denied this.
Daun Penh District Governor Sok Sombath declined to comment on the cleanup effort, saying officials would discuss it in detail during a meeting at 2:30pm today at City Hall.