Battambang authorities have launched a campaign to beautify the provincial town and improve public order and safety so that it can vie for clean city awards with other provinces.

Town governor Pheng Sethy told The Post on August 3 that as part of the campaign, authorities also rounded up more than 100 homeless people to have them tested for Covid-19 and for use of drugs in order to provide them with assistance if they are ill or need treatment for drug addiction.

Sethy said any of the 119 homeless people who tests positive for Covid-19 will be sent to hospital since they do not have shelter for self-isolation, while those who test positive for drugs will be sent to the drug treatment centre in Preah Sihanouk province

To beautify the town, they are removing porches of houses that are overhanging roads to make things orderly.

Yin Mengly, provincial coordinator for rights group ADHOC, welcomed the campaign, saying the homeless tend to linger in the gardens along the Stung Sangke River, one of the town’s tourist attractions.

“Doing this is good if it is intended to help these people, but as far as further solutions go, where does the town send them if they have mental illnesses when the province has no hospitals? In particular, Battambang province should have a drug treatment centre and also a public shelter where we take the homeless to get help. We can’t take adults to an orphanage,” he said.

He said that if the authorities fail to find them real help for their problems, they will return to their old ways, which will cost the town time and funds to deal with them over and over again.

Governor Sethy said those with mental illnesses will be sent to the Phnom Penh Municipal Social Affairs Centre for further evaluation, while those with no easily identifiable problems will also be provided with assistance, possibly through an NGO programme aimed at helping them find work and become productive members of society.

“We haven’t sent an end date for this campaign to help the homeless because we’ll do it over and over again to uphold public order, especially to ensure the town’s security, public order and to assist them with their health. That’s all,” he said.