City’s Homeless Acclimate to New Surroundings

The Social Affairs Center of Phnom Penh is not far past the airport, but with cows meandering among the rice fields that surround its walls like a moat, it is worlds away from the capital’s hardscrabble streets.

And for about 30 of the nearly 50 homeless people rounded up by municipal police last week, it will be home for at least the next month—and for some for the next four to six months.

Daun Penh Deputy Governor Pich Socheata said Monday that that those rounded up had been separated into three categories: Homeless, beggars and drug ad­dicts.

The homeless and beggars have been sent to the Social Af­fairs Center, she said, the drug addicts to the Youth Rehab­i­li­tation Center of Chom Chao.

“Those people might be al­lowed to live outside the center after Water Festival,” she said of the group. “We need to provide them skills, otherwise they will con­tinue to beg,” she added.

A guard at the Social Affairs Center confirmed that about 30 people were at the facility, among them a number of families with small children.

He said the homeless would stay at the center for four to six months to learn trades.

The beggars, he said, would be detained at the facility until the end of the Water Festival.

He said that most of the homeless were happy with the arrangement and were free to come and go. Many of the beggars wanted to leave, he said, but were being forced to stay.

A sign posted on the gate to the facility informed visitors that they could not enter without first ob­taining permission from the Phnom Penh Municipal Social Af­fairs Department.

The fate of the drugs addicts, however, remains a mystery.

Officials at the Rehabilitation Cen­ter of Chom Chao said no one had been referred to them. Soth Sath, Chom Chao commune chief, said he had not been contacted about addicts being sent to the center.

Homeless people have been similarly removed from Phnom Penh streets for years, while ad­dicts have in the past been sent to a rehabilitation center in Banteay Meanchey province.

(Additional reporting by Michael Cowden)


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