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Where tourists go, beggars follow

Where tourists go, beggars follow

090107_05.jpg
090107_05.jpg

Sihanoukville’s beaches are falling victim to their own success, with increased migration from poorer provinces leading to a rise in the number of beggars on the beaches

Photo by:

SOVANN PHILONG

Beggars on the beach in Sihanoukville.

AS tourism in Cambodia's beach resort town of Sihanoukville gradually takes off, local authorities say the industry is in jeopardy due to an attendant explosion in the number of beggars working the sandy shores of the Kingdom's southernmost city.

"The number of beggars has increased compared to previous years towards the end of 2008, especially during the New Year holiday," Som Chenda, director of the Tourism Department in Sihanouk province, told the Post Monday.

Som Chenda said the rise in tourist arrivals has lured increasing numbers of vagabonds to Cambodia's beaches, eager to make a fast buck by begging. He says he is concerned the sheer number of beggars will scare away tourists.

 "I am really worried about the increase, but I do not know what I will do with the [beggars] yet," he said.

"It has a really bad impact to this province, which is a hotspot for tourism. If these people come to beg from visitors, it really impacts the visitors' experience," he said.

The problem is compounded by the fact that local authorities have no resources to deal with the beggars.

"We try to persuade them to find a new job and go back to their provinces," he said.

Growing trend

Sok Serey, director of Sihanouk province's Social Affairs, Veterans and Youth Rehabilitation Department, estimated that the number of beggars had increased from 76 families a few months ago to more than 100 families now,  and he said the migration to the coast appeared set to continue.

Most of the beggars are children, disabled people or old people, and most come from Prey Veng, Kandal, Kampot and Kampong Speu provinces, he said.

"Now our staff is trying to educate them to go back to their province voluntarily to do other jobs, and we will support them with the money for transportation home," he said.

According to Tak Vanntha, Sihanouk province's police chief, his forces can only arrest beggars temporarily to educate them about the negative impact they have on tourism.

"We have reported this case to the provincial governor, and the department that is working on this to find a solution for the beggars - maybe by building a school or vocational learning center," he added.

"The problem must be solved one step at a time, but it is a hard problem for us," he said.

"Even though we bring them back to their homeland, they will return again." 

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