Homeless children and adults who said they were rounded up by police several weeks ago have trickled back into the city, but the whereabouts of some 15 drug addicted children who municipal officials said were arrested around the same time and sent to Banteay Meanchey province are still unknown.
Koam Da, 17, said Tuesday that police arrested him about two weeks ago from the riverfront in Daun Penh district where he stays. They took him and some 20 other homeless youths and adults approximately 40 km outside of town and left them on a street just off National Route 3.
He was able to hire a motorbike taxi back to town with money earned from begging, but fellow riverfront dweller Bin Nga, 52, said she had to walk back.
Daun Penh district Police Chief, Phal Pheng denied any police action against street people Tuesday.
But Sebastien Marot, coordinator for the NGO Mith Samlanh / Friends, said Tuesday that such roundups of homeless youths and adults by authorities are “very common.”
“Most of the time it is just before a festival…last year it was very active during the Asean meetings,” he said. Mith Samlanh representatives have also been trying to find some 15 drug-addicted street youths who municipal authorities said were arrested and sent to Banteay Meanchey several weeks ago, Marot said. “We have received a lot of contradictory information,” he said. Currently, the children are believed to be in Banteay Meanchey, but not at an NGO.
Municipal Deputy Governor Ly Sou said last week that as many as 15 children were rounded up in late June and sent to an NGO in Banteay Meanchey whose name he could not remember to treat their drug addiction. Banteay Meanchey military police officials and provincial governor Thach Khorn, however, said no children had been transported to the province. The roundups came to light after Phnom Penh Governor Kep Chuktema announced July 9 that he had ordered municipal authorities to round up drug addicted street children and detain them while they kicked their habit.
Banteay Meanchey and Phnom Penh officials, including Kep Chuktema, declined to comment on the whereabouts of the children Tuesday.