City Hall Puts End to Street Sweep Campaign

Phnom Penh City Hall on Thursday suspended its campaign to clear the city of street-sellers and beggars and said that the project would not resume until it develops a viable plan to accommodate those rounded up.

City Hall on Monday said it would collect vagrants and place them in vocational training programs, but confusion between the municipality and two NGOs that had agreed to assist those collected led to the program’s rapid breakdown.

The two NGOs—Pour un Sourire d’Enfant (PSE) and Mith Samlanh—signed on with City Hall in the belief that they would be assisted in their regular work of profiling the city’s vagrants to find individual solutions.

Instead, women, children and the elderly were rounded up, loaded into caged trucks and dropped at PSE, which on Wednesday night called a meeting with municipal officials to express its dissatisfaction.

“Indeed, we held a small talk between partner NGOs to discuss a plan to successfully implement the order to remove street people and beggars from the streets,” said City Hall spokesman Long Dimanche.

“[The roundup] is temporarily halted until there is a big meeting to design an action plan to give them an option that would keep them off the streets.”

PSE program director Pin Sarapich said he called the meeting after two days of what he described as chaos, where officials ran maverick and scared people into hiding, eroding work that it has done with those on the streets.

He said that the methods of the City Hall roundup were not consistent with the NGO’s mandate or intention.

“Those two days, we had no idea what was happening,” Mr. Sarapich said. “They brought to us some children that they rounded up—but some of those children have homes and parents. This is why we need to talk to the people. The roundup just scares them away.”

Chan Sopheng, 14, who sells jasmine clusters along Monivong Boulevard, was picked up by municipal authorities during the two-day campaign. He said he spent a few hours riding around the city in a caged truck, a few hours at PSE and was then taken home to his parents.

On Thursday, he was back at a busy intersection on Monivong Boulevard, once again peddling flowers.

“I was picked up at the traffic lights…on Tuesday and then I was brought back to my parents at our rental home in Tuol Kok the same day,” he said. “Today, I have not seen any trucks rounding up. My mother decided to send me here to sell because it is not as restricted as the other areas.”

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