Information compiled during the Phnom Penh Municipality’s first census of people living on the street is scheduled to be discussed and approved today, and will eventually be incorporated into city-wide plans to combat homelessness, officials said Tuesday.
During the two-day census earlier this month, interviewers counted 4,189 street people and 1,305 street families living in Phnom Penh, according to officials.
Following today’s meeting between city and district officials, the approved census figures will be sent as a report to Phnom Penh Governor Kep Chuktema, who will develop new programs for homelessness, said Chea San, director of the municipal social affairs department.
“We need to cleanse our city, both nature and society, for tourists, because tourists will not be happy to visit our city if they see beggars and homeless people sleeping and living along the streets,” said Municipal Deputy Governor Khun Sear.
“We have to [reach out to the homeless] with higher effectiveness to rescue those street people from the streets, because those street people and beggars are our relatives,” he said. “We have the same nationality and Khmer blood.”
He stressed that those interviewed will not now be arrested, intimidated, detained or removed against their will from the city.
Friends International, the umbrella NGO that includes local organization Mith Samlanh/Friends, declined an invitation to participate in the census, saying the process seemed unclear and could harm the organization’s mission.
Mith Samlanh/Friends Outreach Team Leader Pin Sokhom was also skeptical of City Hall’s census figures, saying his organization counts at least 10,500 street children alone.