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More ‘undesirables’ in city’s sights

A young girl tries to sell jasmine flowers to a motorist at an intersection in Phnom Penh last week
A young girl tries to sell jasmine flowers to a motorist at an intersection in Phnom Penh last week. City Hall said it is preparing for a second campaign against Phnom Penh’s homeless and underprivileged. Vireak Mai

More ‘undesirables’ in city’s sights

City Hall is preparing to launch a fresh round of street sweeps, hailing its recent controversial efforts to clear Phnom Penh of beggars, street sellers and homeless adults and children a success.

City Hall spokesman Long Dimanche said the first round of the municipality’s campaign to clear the city was over, with authorities looking to target a new batch of “undesirables”.

“We are not sure what date but, from July, City Hall will start the second campaign,” he said, adding that everyone rounded up earlier this month was benefiting from the initiative.

During the first round of sweeps, the Post found that children as young as 7 years old were being hauled into caged vans and taken to the city’s notorious Prey Speu social affairs centre.

Several witnesses said that rather than receiving training, those locked in Prey Speu spent much of the two to three days they stayed there cleaning and collecting rubbish.

Two days after the first sweep, United Nations representatives visited the centre and described conditions inside as “extremely poor”.

Authorities denied that Prey Speu was used and said those rounded up were put into the care of Pour un Sourire d’Enfant (PSE).

However, PSE said it was providing help to just 13 children.

Last week, in a further bid to clear the streets, City Hall named six intersections across the capital that would be used as “model areas” in which beggars and street sellers would no longer be allowed.

Dimanche told the Post yesterday that such efforts were needed to ensure the safety of people on the streets, to offer them a more prosperous future, to combat human trafficking, and to make the city more attractive.

He named PSE, Mith Samlanh, New Family and Enfants d’Asie Aspeca – all of which focus on disadvantaged children – as NGOs joining in for the latest roundup.

Ouk Sovan, deputy program director at PSE, confirmed that the partnership was expected to continue.

“We are working with City Hall in order to respect the rights of children,” he said, adding that his organisation could only help those in its care and could not ensure that no one rounded up would be sent to Prey Speu.

Son Sophal, director of the Social Affairs Department, said the “roundup [of] the homeless and beggars [was] for their benefit and the city’s”.

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