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Dozens of capital's homeless sent to Prey Speu

Police watch over a group of homeless people who were rounded up yesterday in Phnom Penh before transporting them to Prey Speu social affairs centre.
Police watch over a group of homeless people who were rounded up yesterday in Phnom Penh before transporting them to Prey Speu social affairs centre. Photo supplied

Dozens of capital's homeless sent to Prey Speu

Just weeks after reports emerged of more fatalities from Phnom Penh’s Prey Speu social affairs centre and ensuing promises of reform, authorities yesterday rounded up dozens more homeless people and detained them at the notorious facility.

Kim Vutha, Daun Penh district’s chief of security, said 61 people were arrested and taken to the centre in the early hours of yesterday morning.

Despite confirming the continued use of Prey Speu, Vutha acknowledged that the facility, which officially changed its name to Por Sen Chey Vocational Training Centre in 2013, was not fit for training detainees.

“At Prey Speu, there is no training for them, which is why they ask to leave, and the officials must allow them to leave because it’s their right,” he said.

“They could stay there for less than a week. That is why we see the same faces on the streets again and again when they are released. It’s hard to solve the problem of homelessness.”

Daun Penh district’s deputy governor, Sok Penh Vuth, who led the arrests, said the group, which includes 10 children, was arrested by security forces while sleeping rough.

“Most of those homeless people are addicted to glue sniffing and drugs, and they are usually causing trouble by bag-snatching and extorting money from people and tourists who come to relax and exercise,” he said.

After reports emerged earlier this month of at least two deaths in the centre, officials announced plans to build new facilities with specialised care, while leaving Prey Speu open for “voluntary” training programs.

Son Sophal, head of Phnom Penh’s Social Affairs Department, could not be reached yesterday to comment on the reforms.

The UN Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights, which sits on a working group created in the wake of the deaths, did not respond to requests for comment.

Am Sam Ath, a senior investigator with local rights group Licadho, called once again for the centre to be shut down.

“Staying there voluntarily and giving them vocational training is welcome, but authorities are careless and have left people to die at Prey Speu,” he said.

“If they still collect people from the streets and detain them there, it’s not a solution. It’s a human rights violation and we need it to close.”

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