The government’s latest move in its crusade to keep blind and disabled performers off Phnom Penh’s streets saw a group of almost 200 singers and musicians sign a contract banning them from appearing at their usual spots during a meeting with City Hall on Friday.
Many of the performers, who regularly solicit donations while playing at busy intersections, had returned to the streets after a previous crackdown in July when they were rounded up and had equipment seized, a move authorities said was necessary because they were causing traffic jams.
Municipal spokesman Met Measpheakdey put forward a new reason to move the musicians on Sunday, saying that they were routinely getting injured in traffic accidents—a claim a representative for the performers denied.
“We have banned blind people from playing music on the streets, because…it causes traffic jams and we are also worried about their safety as they are blind, so it is easy for them to get in accidents,” Mr. Measpheakdey said.
He said City Hall had approved three new locations for performers in Phnom Penh: Freedom Park, Wat Phnom and Wat Botum Park.
The 194 musicians also agreed to form five groups instead of 21, he said, making it easier for the government to look after them.
Mr. Measpheakdey said Prime Minister Hun Sen recently promised to donate instruments to the performers if they played in the designated locations, as well as provide 1 million riel, or about $250, to each group per month.
Sorn Sophal, director of the municipal social affairs department, said some performers were still performing in the areas they were banned from.
“We will not use force to move them, but we will tell them to move from the streets to the new places that are prepared by the Phnom Penh Municipal Hall,” Mr. Sophal said.
He reiterated the claim that some blind people had gotten into accidents by walking onto the road to collect money from drivers, but added that he could not remember where they occurred.
Long Saoroath, a representative for the performers, denied any such accidents had taken place.
“I wish to state that no accidents happened to our disabled musicians and singers because of playing music on the streets,” he said. “This information is not true.”
Mr. Saoroath called on the government to find more than three locations and reconsider its consolidation plans.
“We had about three to seven people in a group before, and they were able to make about 200,000 riel [about $50] per month,” he said. “Now, one group has about 40 people or more. How is each person able to earn money every day?”