A Phnom Penh City Hall official said Tuesday that police arrested 51 homeless people and sex workers Monday night in Daun Penh district because they were a “shame to the nation’s society,” adding that there were plans for a vocational training center to house those arrested in future roundups.
Daun Penh district governor Kuch Chamroeun said the arrests were made at night near Wat Phnom and the U.S. Embassy.
“Wat Phnom commune officials joined together to round up a total of 51 people including sex workers and khtoeuy [transgender prostitutes] and homeless people,” he said.
Mr. Chamroeun said police arrested 10 homeless men and 41 sex workers.
“They were sent to the municipal social affairs department for questioning,” he said.
Sorn Sophal, director of the social affairs department, could not be reached for comment, but deputy municipal governor Khuong Sreng said the 51 were arrested because they had tarnished the country’s image.
“We do not want them to work and live like that because they bring shame to themselves and also shame to the nation’s society.” Mr. Sreng said.
Mr. Sreng said all 51 were still being held at the city’s social affairs department and claimed they would be returned home at their request, as long as their homes were not in Phnom Penh.
He added that any of the detained who reside in the capital would only be released if an NGO agreed to take responsibility for them.
“If any NGOs come to take them, we will let them live with those NGOs for vocational training,” he said.
When asked whether any members of the group would be sent to the city’s notorious Prey Speu detention center, which has been plagued by allegations of abuse, Mr. Sreng declined to comment.
He did say, however, that there were plans to open a new vocational training center in Kandal province’s Ang Snuol district. Any of the 51 who did not have a provincial home or could not find an NGO to take them in would be transferred there once construction was complete, he added.
“We will transfer them there to avoid them working the same jobs,” he said, declining to provide more details about the center. The Ang Snuol district governor could not be reached for comment.