In an effort to “clean” Phnom Penh’s streets ahead of the coming Pchum Ben celebrations, authorities in Daun Penh district yesterday rounded up 27 homeless people.
Kim Vutha, district security chief, told the Post that authorities conducted the roundup in Wat Phnom, Srah Chak, Boeung Raing and Chey Chumneah communes and sent the 27 to Phnom Penh’s Social Affairs Department.
“We collected them because Pchum Ben starts on Tuesday this week, and we will have a lot of people coming to the pagoda. We are afraid of them disturbing [preparations] or stealing or whatever, which is bad for public order,” Vutha said.
According to Vutha, in August alone authorities in Daun Penh rounded up more than 100 people and sent them to the Social Affairs Department.
Son Sophal, director of the department, said people rounded up were sent there so they could be “re-educated”.
Often “they do not listen to what we explain … [and] still go back to the same place to be beggars”, he said.
But, he admitted, the centre does not have the capacity to offer any training, and people are merely ordered to sign a contract promising to get off of the streets before being sent back again.
Since June, dozens of people have been rounded up as part of an organised “street sweep” aimed at ridding Phnom Penh of beggars, street sellers and homeless adults and children.
The initiative was packaged as an effort to combat human trafficking and to offer useful vocational training. But the Post found that children as young as 7 were taken to the city’s notorious Prey Speu centre against their will.
Officials have repeatedly denied that Prey Speu was used, but admitted plans to use the facility in future roundups.
A member of staff at the centre told the Post yesterday that there had been no new arrivals.