Cambodia's new Minister of Tourism, Lay Prohas, believes he may have come up with
a possible solution to the increasing problem of beggars on the Phnom Penh riverfront.
Prohas' idea is to establish a night market for tourists, operated by NGOs with humanitarian
ideals, who could divert the revenue earned into welfare and rehabilitation work
with disadvantaged people, and help get some of them off the street and back into
Currently, the municipal government deals with the beggar and street kid problem
by rounding them up and taking them out of town. This tends to happen in advance
of special events when an instant improvement in the city's image is considered desirable.
Prohas, in an interview with the Post, said "It breaks my heart to see my people
suffering in this way, having to beg from tourists for their survival. It is the
responsibility of city hall and the Ministry of Social Affairs to address the problem."
He said there was no possibility in "wringing one's hands and saying it's someone
else's responsibility. I would like to help with my concept of a night market, operated
or managed by one or more NGOs who have humanitarian missions. It would be a high-class
service for tourists, a quality addition to the ambience of the unique Phnom Penh
"There has to be a secondary purpose, otherwise the market would just attract
more beggars. The benefit would go to the street people; the NGO would use the revenue
from the market to keep people off the street. How they would do this is over to
them, I just offer the idea and opportunity. Other cities have night markets but
I have not heard of this concept elsewhere. I invite NGOs who are interested to contact
Prohas said the night market could proceed regardless of NGO involvement, subject
to the approval of the governor and the municipal police.
"A few hundred meters could be allocated on the paved path between the grass
and the street; this is wide enough for mobile market stalls, not tents or mats.
Electricity could be provided for colorful lighting. They would sell souvenirs, art
and craft, music, videos, watches, t-shirts, whatever; but not fish or groceries.
It could be a big attraction, maybe even Siem Reap people would come for the experience,"