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Logo of Phnom Penh Post newspaper Phnom Penh Post - Dragnets defended by govt

Dragnets defended by govt

Officials deny street people are being detained unlawfully

THE government has denied that it is keeping people unlawfully detained in two "rehabilitation centres" outside the city, saying that scores of people recently cleared from the streets have voluntarily entered re-education programs offered by authorities.

The centres at Prey Speu and Koh Kor have been filled under a "volunteer policy" by beggars and other people living on the capital's streets, said Say Siphonn, a secretary of state at the Ministry of Social Affairs.

The government was responding Wednesday to letters sent by the rights group Licadho in June and October demanding the centres be closed.

Other rights groups and the United Nations and have also questioned the government's ongoing dragnet against street people.

According to Licadho, "men, women and children have been unlawfully detained" in the centres, with 40 homeless people arrested earlier in the week in a pre-Water Festival crackdown that officials said was meant to beautify the city.

"This crude attempt to clean up the streets by rounding up poor people ... is completely unlawful. No one can be arrested or detained unless they are caught in the act of committing a crime, in which case they should be sent to court," Licadho director Naly Pilorge told the Post.

"In the past, people arrested in such round-ups have been detained in so-called social affairs centres where extremely serious abuses,

including beatings and rapes, have occurred. These centres serve no humanitarian purpose. They exist merely to detain people unlawfully," she added.

Chea Sorn, former municipal director of social affairs with jurisdiction over the Prey Speu rehabilitation facility, has been transferred.

But Say Siphonn said the move was not related to the recent criticism of the centres in the media.

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