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Ministry bans fake monks, other beggars, from seeking donations in public places

A beggar receives money from a pedestrian near Phnom Penh's Royal Palace in 2014.
A beggar receives money from a pedestrian near Phnom Penh's Royal Palace in 2014. Heng Chivoan

Ministry bans fake monks, other beggars, from seeking donations in public places

The Ministry of Social Affairs has issued a new directive banning people “dressed” as monks and nuns, as well as groups using children, the elderly or disabled, from begging in public places.

The announcement applies to Cambodians and foreigners involved in soliciting such donations, and the ministry has asked local authorities and the public to report such activity to the ministry.

“These activities affect the public order,” says the directive, which was issued on March 1 and signed by Minister Vong Soth. It further says such begging affects the reputation and dignity of the people as well as that of the Cambodian government, which is trying to reduce poverty.

“[It] especially affects the rights of the individuals as victims of those people who make use of them for their own interest,” the announcement reads. “NGOs, associations or other groups doing these activities must immediately stop.”

Beggars and so-called "fake monks" seeking donations have been a common sight in touristy areas for years, but it was unclear to which NGOs the ministry was referring. An official at the Social Affairs Ministry, who asked for anonymity because he wasn’t authorised to speak with the media, said the ministry has not “defined the groups.”

“We just talk in general,” he said. “When we get a call to inform us about these cases, we will go down to deal with it.”

The ministry has yet to develop specific procedures to deal with violations of the order, he added.

“This is a concern of our people,” he said.

Mom Chandany, director of the Phnom Penh Municipal Social Affairs Department, said her department will meet soon with the ministry to further discuss enforcement. Thus far, she added, her department has not received any reports of such activities.

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