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Logo of Phnom Penh Post newspaper Phnom Penh Post - Governor abandons homeless sweep

Governor abandons homeless sweep

Governor abandons homeless sweep

Phnom Penh Governor Chea Sophara has admitted it was a "bad idea" to remove

homeless people from the city's streets before November's ASEAN meeting and said

he would no longer go ahead with the plan.

"I have changed my idea quickly because I launched and tested it, and it got

a bad reaction," Sophara said. "We will not send homeless people back to

the provinces. I want long-term solutions instead."

His latest answer to the problem of homelessness is the creation of a "My Chance"

center for street children and drug abusers at a three hectare site purchased near

the Anlong Kngann relocation site north of the city.

Thirty thousand dollars has been raised to build the center, including several large

donations from local businessmen. Sophara said the design was complete and building

could begin as early as next week. However the center was unlikely to be finished

before the ASEAN meeting.

The center will have space for 500 street children and drug abusers to live, and

they will also receive education, food and skills training.

"It will have a judo club and be open for everyone to enjoy," Sophara said,

adding the children would not be forced to go there. "We don't want to make

a high wall and restrict their freedom."

The municipality's new collaborative approach involves working with NGOs and the

UN to find a solution to the problem of street children. Sophara said he would ask

NGO Mith Samlanh/Friends to run the 'My Chance' center.

Mith Samlanh/Friends and the municipality's Phnom Penh Urban Poverty Reduction Project

will hold a workshop on helping street children to 'come off the streets' September

3 at the municipal hall. The governor, representatives from several ministries, NGOs,

donors and UN agencies will attend.

Sébastien Marot, coordinator at Mith Samlanh/Friends, said the objective of

the meeting was to explain to the municipality the variety of factors that drive

people onto the streets.

"I hope everyone realizes we have the same objective and need to work together,"

he said.

Marot said that despite the public outcry over the governor's plan to sweep homeless

people off the city's streets, local authorities were continuing to collect street

children.

"I do hope for a stop to the current policies that are not very constructive,"

he said.

Peter Swan, advisor at UN Habitat, helped arrange the workshop. He said it was an

important chance to find mutually acceptable solutions for all parties, starting

with street children themselves. "There is a great need to review the municipality's

ideas to ensure they are viable and in accordance with international conventions

on children's rights," Swan said.

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