Beggars Removed From City Before Pchum Ben

Hundreds of beggars in Phnom Penh have been rounded up after a municipal directive issued last week calling for their removal from pagodas during the Pchum Ben festival.

The provincial poor who have traveled to Phnom Penh to beg say the holiday is a lucrative time for them, but City Hall officials argue that their presence is a threat to public order.

Municipal Governor Kep Chuk­tema said that though hundreds have been rounded up so far, the num­ber of homeless people and beg­gars in the city has decreased this year.

“Some people who are not really poor definitely understand they are at risk of being arrested and sent to centers for re-education and training,” he said.

He added that provincial families who own land should farm rather than beg.

Beggars are being sent to the municipal Social Affairs Center along National Road 3, and those with drug problems to the municipality’s new Mondul Ponleu Khnhom, or My Bright Center, for re-education, Daun Penh district Deputy Governor Pich Socheata said.

She added that more than 40 people taken from three pagodas in her district have been sent for re-education.

Chamkar Mon district Governor Lou Yuy said that first-time beggars have been re-educated by authorities on the spot. Only beggars who have been apprehended by authorities many times will be taken away to centers, he said.

Chum Bunseab, 53, a widow from Svay Rieng province who traveled to Phnom Penh to beg during Pchum Ben, said that there was little difference between being taken to a re-education center and being put in jail.

“I need to feed six children. I left them [in Svay Rieng] planting rice…while I am in Phnom Penh begging for money,” she said.

Heng Bona, 37, who came from Kompong Cham province to beg, said that people are more generous with donations during Pchum Ben and Khmer New Year.

“They are hopeful that the money they give us will please their ancestors,” he said.

Kim Eng, social affairs bureau chief for Meanchey district, said that beggars in his district will be confined to a small area of the pagoda, but will not be detained or sent to re-education centers.

“Anyone who wants to donate money for beggars, they must walk to a corner where beggars are assembled,” he said.


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