Ahead of today’s funeral for former Senate president Chea Sim, Daun Penh district authorities have rounded up 171 homeless persons, drug abusers and sex workers, though have refused to say whether the street sweeps are related to the ceremonies.
Daun Penh district Deputy Governor Sok Penhvuth, who led this week’s operations, said that since Monday authorities have been paying special attention to locations such as the riverside, Oddna Loam Pagoda, Wat Koh Pagoda and areas near the National Museum and Botum Vatey Pagoda Park, where Sim’s body is to be cremated.
Yesterday at 3am, he said, authorities gathered 51 people, including 16 sex workers, nine homeless and 26 addicts, the third such mass sweep that has taken place this week.
“Besides maintaining regulations, this operation has been carried out to respond to complaints by local people, since there are many homeless people who consume drugs and bother local residents, as well as affect the safety of girls who go to school early in the morning and come home late in the evening,” Penhvuth claimed.
Kim Vutha, chief of Daun Penh district security, the same ad hoc security force notorious for myriad violent confrontations with protesters, said that 100 district guards have been dispatched to apprehend “transients” in the capital.
“We launch this measure when we think it affects people in the evening and early morning,” he said. “The captured people are those children who do not go home, people who use drugs; some come from the provinces . . . and some are prostitutes who [openly] run their business.”
Vutha added that among the 171 people apprehended, 103 were women. They have been sent to the Social Affairs office.
Phnom Penh Social Affairs director Sorn Sophal said that upon receiving those rounded up, his department has sent them to different locations according to classification: children have been sent to education centres; sex workers have been sent to rehabilitation and career centres to assist them in finding a new trade; drug users have been sent to rehab.
“Recently, we have made contact with more partners in order to [assist] in taking these homeless people to education and rehabilitation centres temporarily,” he said. “Now, some organisations have come and taken care of some of them.”
Meanwhile, according to an announcement by Phnom Penh City Hall, Chea Sim’s funeral will officially be held from 6am to 12pm today. The procession will begin at Sim’s home at #12, Street 462, before proceeding to the park near Botum Vatey, where King Norodom Sihamoni will light the funeral pyre.
Parts of Norodom Boulevard, Sihanouk Boulevard and Sothearos will be shut down during the funeral march.