Though the Water Festival finished more than a week ago, most of the homeless people rounded up and detained in Phnom Penh’s notorious Prey Speu detention centre as part of official efforts to “clean” the streets for the festivities have yet to be released, according to the United Nations.
The ongoing detentions come ahead of a government conference next week aimed at finding alternative solutions to dealing with homelessness in Phnom Penh.
Wan-Hea Lee, country representative of the UN Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR), said “most” of the 54 men, women and children taken to Prey Speu ahead of the Water Festival remain in detention at the infamously abusive centre.
Despite consistent denials by the city’s social affairs department of Prey Speu’s ongoing use in roundups, Lee said that since June, people have been kept for “longer detentions than we had observed previously”.
A “national conference on persons in street situations” will be held next week by the Ministry of Social Affairs, with participation from OHCHR and other UN agencies, Lee said.
“The conference aims to create space for examining effective national and international practices, arriving at a consensus on the best ways to deal with persons in street situations in Phnom Penh, and creating the necessary partnerships to follow through with actions.”
Son Sophal, director of the municipal social affairs department, yesterday maintained that those rounded up ahead of the Water Festival were not taken to Prey Speu.