Over 60 Homeless Detained in Sweep; Destination Unknown

More Than 60 homeless people, including 22 women and 10 children, were rounded up by authorities in a predawn sweep of the riverside and parks in Phnom Penh on Wednesday, according to officials, who refused to say if any were sent to the notorious Prey Speu detention center.

Around 4 a.m., Daun Penh district police and security guards began collecting the homeless off the streets, said deputy Daun Penh district governor Sok Penhvuth, who was on the scene.

“We collected 61 homeless people, including 22 women and 10 children, along the riverside, parks and streets,” Mr. Penhvuth said, adding that 20 percent of them had been previously detained in similar operations.

The homeless were questioned by Daun Penh officials and then sent to the Phnom Penh social affairs department, which would place them at “centers” depending on their situation, Mr. Penhvuth said.

“We collected them because we pity them and we want them to stay in centers to get training to do work,” Mr. Penhvuth said, declining to say whether any would end up at Prey Speu, where three people have died in the past year.

Sorn Sophal, director of the Phnom Penh social affairs department, said that some of the vagrants would be sent to a drug rehabilitation center in Sen Sok district, but also declined to comment on whether any would be sent to Prey Speu.

Earlier this month, local rights group Licadho once again called for the closure of the center on the outskirts of the city—which is known officially as the Pur Senchey Vocational Training Center but offers no training—following the deaths of two detainees in October.

Ministry of Social Affairs officials met to consider making changes to Prey Speu, but have not come up with a definitive plan for the future of center, said Social Affairs Ministry spokesman Toch Channy.

“City authorities are just preparing public order by collecting the homeless, but they don’t have a resolution because we don’t have a standard center for them yet,” he said.

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