While details emerged yesterday of Phnom Penh’s first major “street sweep” of 2015, authorities said they planned to continue efforts to rid the capital of so-called “undesirables” in the coming days.
In the early hours of Monday morning, mixed security forces in Daun Penh district forcibly rounded up “49 homeless people, 19 sex workers and 12 drug users”, according to District Governor Kouch Chamroeun.
James Sutherland, a communications coordinator at Friends International, which partners with local NGO Mith Samlanh, said yesterday that 40 of those rounded up, including children, had been taken to a residential centre run by the NGO in Kampong Speu province.
“We normally use it for residential weekends so there’s plenty of stuff to do.… It’s nice and safe,” he said, adding that the group will “probably be there until after the weekend”.
Sutherland said the “clear-ups are expected to continue in the next few days”.
Chamroeun, the district governor, confirmed plans to continue the roundups. “We will still do it if there are street people in the city,” he said.
On Monday, Chamroeun said in an interview that the measures were being taken to ensure “public order” ahead of a major event.
While he did not comment further, former Senate president Chea Sim’s funeral and the Queen Mother’s birthday are both happening this week.
But while 40 of those removed from the streets were taken into the NGO’s care, many others were not as lucky.
A member of staff at Phnom Penh’s notorious Prey Speu Social Affairs Centre said dozens of those rounded up were brought to the facility.
Prey Speu – or Por Sen Chey Vocational Training Centre as it is now officially known – has been linked to numerous allegations of abuse, rape and even murder.
The centre is regularly used as a dumping ground for the capital’s “undesirables” and acts as a de-facto asylum for people the state considers mentally ill.
The member of staff, who spoke on condition of anonymity, said children were among those sent to Prey Speu on Monday.
While people regularly escape from the centre by climbing over its low external wall, he said yesterday afternoon that all of the new arrivals remained there.
But, he added, “there is nothing for them to do”, and staff expect necessities like food will be thinly spread.
“We will give them as much as we are able to”.