City officials plan to clear Phnom Penh’s homeless people from the streets and parks before the annual Water Festival in November.
“We will have to collect all the homeless people and send them back home in the near future because it’s an eyesore that they are sleeping in streets and parks and before residents’ flats,” First Deputy Governor Chea Sophara said.
About 500 people are estimated to be living on the capital’s streets, with the numbers continuing to increase, according to the governor. However, Ministry of Social Affairs officials have in the past put the figure at more than 2,000.
Those living on the capital’s streets tend to move to Phnom Penh from the provinces mostly to beg, though some pick up work as day laborers. Most have been coming from the southeastern provinces of Prey Veng and Svay Rieng, Chea Sophara said.
An 11-member subcommission organized by the municipality at the prompting of the Ministry of Social Affairs has been set up to coordinate sending people back to their homes, he said.
In the past, the street people, if picked up by police, were trucked outside the capital to a camp, where they were temporarily detained before being sent to their homes. Human rights advocates have criticized the detention, calling it a violation of the law.
Chea Sophara acknowledged that homeless people’s rights have been abused in the past, but he insisted that authorities had no choice.
For now, Chea Sophara said, he has agreed with human rights groups to truck people home immediately after they are pulled from the streets.
“Doing this, we will no longer get criticized for abusing people’s rights,” he said.
Lim Phai, director of the Urban Sector Group, which coordinates the management of poor communities in the city, said the subcommission is good, but added that he has no hope it will help stop the problem.
He said it can only be stopped by rural development and job creation.