Beggars To Be Rounded Up, Given Training

The government has created a plan to clear around 1,800 “vaga­bonds” each year from the streets of Phnom Penh and two other urban centers and send them to facilities for man­datory vocational training, Min­istry of Social Affairs officials said Tuesday.

The Council of Ministers on Fri­day adopted a sub-decree creating the National Committee for Re­solv­ing the Vagabond Issue, aimed at improving the way Cambodia deals with destitute people.

The committee is headed by the minister of social affairs and is de­signed to help reintegrate the des­ti­­tute into society, said Haul Phal, dep­uty director of the Min­istry of So­cial Affairs’ Social Wel­fare De­part­ment. He added that the com­mit­tee should be running by the year’s end.

The government hopes the com­­­mittee will be able to remove from the streets 1,000 beggars and homeless in Phnom Penh, 500 in Siem Reap and 300 in Sihanouk­ville each year.

“Samdech Prime Minister Hun Sen pays a very high focus on re­solving the vagabond issue, be­cause we want to help alleviate peo­ple’s poverty,” Haul Phal said.

Haul Phal explained that beggars could be held at training centers for up to three months, and would then be reintegrated into their communities with the help of so­cial workers.

He said that subcommittees would soon be set up in the prov­inces and municipalities to help with the project.

Daun Penh district Vice Gover­nor Pich Socheata said Phnom Penh is already implementing its own version of the plan, and confirmed that police and other officials already have the authority to detain beggars.

“We need to set our city free of drug addicts, homeless persons and beggars, which is why we collect them to stay at the center for training to get proper skills,” she said. “When those beggars and home­less persons have proper skills, they will stop begging and return to their homeland to earn money legally.”

She added that the majority of beg­gars and homeless people were happy to stay at the Phnom Penh Municipal Social Affairs Center near Phnom Penh Interna­tional Airport to receive training.

But some of those who were work­ing the streets of Phnom Penh disagreed.

Many have changed their tactics to evade detention, leaving tourist areas and taking their pleas door-to-door in residential neighborhoods, following a roundup of more than 50 beggars, drug users and homeless people in Daun Penh district earlier this month.

“I started begging for money along residential houses, from door to door, for more than two weeks after a crowd of beggars was rounded up and detained at a center,” said Chan Neang, 13, whose family was detained last year during the Water Festival.

“I could earn only a little money from begging along residential streets…. But it is safer than begging for money along the riverside, because I could be arrested or detained any time,” she said.

Cheat Mao, 11, was panhandling on Street 146 in Tuol Kok district on Tuesday, though he said he could earn twice as much along Sisowath Quay.

He said he feared being sent to a detention center like the one his family was held at last year.

“My parents and my younger sisters tried many times to run from the center when they were rounded up last year, but they could not,” he said.

Child advocacy groups also raised concerns about the practice. “Children have their own right to earn money to support their lives,” Save the Children Nor­way Information Manager Sou Sop­ho­an­nara said.

“Therefore the municipality must provide them enough food and good shelter, otherwise they abuse the children’s rights.”


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