Phnom Penh Seeks to Create New Center for Homeless, Beggars

Phnom Penh’s department of social affairs has asked City Hall to use a building in Pur Senchey district as a new, citywide detention facility for homeless people and beggars, including children, officials said Tuesday.

The center would temporarily house all beggars and homeless people in an effort to reduce begging and make Phnom Penh more pleasant, said deputy social affairs department director Phy Chantha.

“We need permission for the city to use this building in Pur Senchey district and to rescue and round up the beggars,” he said.

The Pur Senchey Training Center in Choam Chao commune is currently used as a state-run orphanage where homeless people stay occasionally, according to Sorn Sophall, director of the municipality’s social affairs department.

Mr. Sophall said he had asked City Hall to allow use of the building for beggars from all of the city’s nine districts.

“We collected them [beggars] before and kept them in a small building, but civil society accused us of keeping them in places that were too small,” Mr. Sophall said, adding that better vocational training could also be offered.

After several days of reeducation and vocational training, beggars would be returned to their homes, he said. Human rights groups have reported physical and sexual abuse in such centers. They say that conditions are atrocious, and that vocational training is rarely offered.

Ahead of visits of foreign leaders and before large international events, such as the Asean Summit in 2012, the municipality has routinely rounded up and confined street dwellers.

Chan Soveth, senior investigator for rights group Adhoc, said it was the government’s duty to not only round-up beggars and release them after a few days, but to provide them with jobs and skills that will keep them off the streets.

“If they arrest them, keep them, and release them without providing any training or finding jobs for them, they will return to beg again,” Mr. Soveth said.

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