Logo of Phnom Penh Post newspaper Phnom Penh Post - Sellers and beggars get hauled off



Sellers and beggars get hauled off

A group of people rounded up by authorities
A group of people rounded up by authorities in yesterday’s sweep throw jasmine flowers from a vehicle yesterday. PHOTO SUPPLIED

Sellers and beggars get hauled off

Beggars, street sellers, and homeless adults and children in Phnom Penh were rounded up yesterday morning and hauled into caged vans, while many more hid to evade capture.

The roundup came a day after a directive signed by Deputy Governor Seng Ratanak was issued, ordering 12 district governors and the municipal social affairs department to remove homeless people from public areas.

At about 9am, police forcefully took people from the streets of the capital. They were put into vans and taken to the police station before being transferred into the custody of NGOs.

“They are at risk of labour exploitation and human trafficking, and we need public order,” Ratanak said.

City Hall spokesman Long Dimanche confirmed that the roundup was well under way.

“We are working to totally clear [the streets].… We started to round them up after the order was released. They will find help from NGOs through education and training,” he said.

But many said the help was unwanted. A 14-year-old flower seller, who asked not to be named, told the Post that since his mother died, his income had been crucial to his and his father’s survival.

“I help to sell [jasmine] flowers. If I can sell a lot each day, I will get a lot of tips to buy food with,” he said.

But after hearing about City Hall’s directive, he said he was too scared to return to his job.

“I heard from my friend, a street boy, that the authorities will round us up. I am so afraid.”

Thirty-seven-year-old beggar Sam Sros said that after seeing a friend arrested yesterday morning she and her two children went into hiding.

“I hid after I saw my friend was arrested by authorities. We did not do anything wrong or commit any crime. We only beg to get some money to buy food for our children,” she said.

A 47-year-old homeless beggar, who declined to be named, was angry with city authorities.

“We just need a little money to buy food.… Since the [directive], it is difficult for us to walk into public areas to beg,” he said.

Pour un sourire d’enfant (PSE), one of the partner NGOs charged with monitoring and educating those rounded up, voiced concerns about the authorities’ approach.

“They need to improve the way to gathering people,” said Ouk Sovan, deputy program director at PSE.

Sovan said that in total, PSE received 13 children rounded up from Russian Boulevard yesterday, where he said the authorities would continue to collect people today.

“The role of PSE will [be to] support all street children in necessary means to integrate back [into] society.… We are assessing each child to identify their problem then provide necessary solutions such as health support, education, accommodation, food, protection, vocational school for young people, support their family [and] income generation,” Sovan said.

But opposition leader Sam Rainsy said he sees the measures as merely “cosmetic”.

“It doesn’t address the root of the problem.… The government has shown irresponsibility, sweeping these people away, and we condemn it. This is not the solution; it is unfair and cruel,” he said.

ADDITIONAL REPORTING BY ALICE CUDDY

MOST VIEWED

  • Kingdom's Covid cluster cases jump to 194

    The Ministry of Health on February 25 confirmed 65 new cases of Covid-19, with 58 linked to the February 20 community transmission. The latest cluster cases include nine Vietnamese nationals, five Cambodians, one each from Korea, Singapore and Japan, with the rest being Chinese. This brings the total number

  • Locations shut, dozens more Covid-19 positive

    The Ministry of Health has closed 23 locations in connection with the February 20 community transmission of Covid-19 and summoned for testing anyone who had direct contact with affected people and places. The number of discovered related infections has risen to 76, including 39 women. In a press release,

  • Preah Sihanouk hit with travel ban

    Preah Sihanouk Provincial Administration has announced a temporary travel ban to and from the province, except for ambulances and trucks transporting goods. The announcement came after prime minister Hun Sen called on people in the province to travel only if necessary, and that people not

  • Cambodia's Covid cluster cases rise to 137

    The Ministry of Health on February 24 recorded 40 more cases of Covid-19, with 38 linked to the February 20 community transmission. Of the 40, two are imported cases involving Chinese passengers. The 38 include two Vietnamese nationals and one Cambodian, with the rest being Chinese. This brings the total cases

  • AstraZeneca jabs touch down in Phnom Penh airport

    The first shipment of 324,000 doses of the AstraZeneca/SII vaccine which was provided through the Covid-19 Vaccines Global Access (COVAX) Facility was delivered to Phnom Penh International Airport on March 2. The rest of the COVAX provided vaccines will arrive in Cambodia at a later date.

  • Covid cluster raises alarm, health bodies urge vigilance

    The Ministry of Health and the World Health Organisation (WHO) in Cambodia have expressed great concern over the February 20 cluster transmission of Covid-19 in the community. Both entities appealed for vigilance and cooperation in curbing further spread of the virus. Ministry spokeswoman Or Vandine said