PHNOM Penh authorities said Monday they will crack down on beggars in advance of the upcoming Water Festival, as rights groups criticised the move as a violation of human rights.
Authorities have already started rounding up “vagabonds”, street children and panhandlers to promote security and public discipline, said Sok Penhvuth, deputy governor of Daun Penh district.
“We have started collecting all these vagabonds this week to send them to learn some skills at a rehabilitation centre,” Sok Penhvuth said. “Then we will send them to their homes to do good jobs, so they don’t come back to the city to be vagabonds.”
But Am Sam Ath, technical supervisor for the rights group Licadho, expressed concern that the crackdown would violate human rights in the name of beautification. Rather than corral beggars into rehabilitation centres, he said, officials should allow them to enjoy the festivities.
“City Hall should organise a place for them to join the ceremony because [beggars] also want to celebrate the Water Festival like us,” he said.
Oeun Seang, 49, who begs near Independence Monument, said she had no other way to support her family and planned to flee officers in a dragnet.
“I am afraid to stay at the rehab centre for fear of torture,” she said.
The Water Festival runs from November 1 to 3.