Disabled Singers Booted From City’s Streets

Social affairs officials have begun confiscating speakers, microphones and other equipment from blind and disabled singers performing for donations on the city’s busy street corners, describing the buskers as a threat to “public order” and an eyesore.

Touch Channy, a spokesman for the Social Affairs Ministry, said five groups of singers had their audio equipment confiscated last week as authorities followed through on a February pledge to clear the capital’s streets of handicapped musicians.

“We started to stop the disabled people’s performances at traffic lights last week because it affects public order,” he said, explaining that the seized equipment—speakers, amps, microphones and keyboards—was taken to the municipal social affairs department building and would be returned to its owners upon request.

Mr. Channy said the department was also concerned about the singers’ impact on the city’s aesthetics and their potential to be hit by vehicles.

“If they sing on the street, we are concerned that they could face accidents, such as cars or motorbikes hitting them,” he said.

Disabled singers caught performing for donations, Mr. Channy said, would be offered a monthly stipend of 60,000 riel (about $15) in exchange for promising not to continue, adding that the offer would be extended to all physically handicapped residents who applied for it.

“When they receive a donation of 60,000 riel and they are also working, then their lives will be better than if they were performing in public,” he said.

Pov Thearith, a 31-year-old blind singer who had his equipment confiscated on Street 2004 on Sunday, poured scorn on the new policy.

“We disabled people cannot do anything if we don’t perform to support ourselves,” he said, explaining that he earned between 100,000 and 200,000 riel (about $25 to $50) per day while crooning for small sums of cash from motorists.

“We never get training from the government. Now I’m trying to think about how I can get my equipment back from the municipal social affairs department,” he said.

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