Police have begun a stepped-up campaign to round up drug-addicts and beggars from Siem Reap town ahead of the Angkor-Gyeongju Culture Expo in November and will soon turn their sights to panhandlers in Phnom Penh ahead of the Water Festival, officials said Wednesday.
The Angkor-Gyeongju World Culture Expo is set for Nov 21—Jan 9 and is expected to attract thousands of South Korean visitors.
The annual Water Festival boat races in Phnom Penh will be held from Nov 4 to Nov 6 and have yearly been preceded by a police roundup of vagrants.
Deputy Siem Reap police chief Lach Savin said that this month 100 people have been taken from the streets of the tourist town in preparation for the event. Forty people were collected in the last week, he said.
“Most beggars are sent back to their home provinces and did not want to stay in social centers because they could make a lot of money from begging,” he said.
Mao Yim, a coordinator for local rights group Adhoc in Siem Reap, said the number of beggars arriving from other provinces has greatly declined since police began their operation.
On Wednesday, Phnom Penh Deputy Governor Khon Sa led a meeting of 14 social affairs department officials at City Hall to beef up the city’s crusade against beggars.
“Do not only think it is a violation of their rights but their violation of the rights of the public,” Khon Sa said of beggars in the capital.
“If they do not cause eye-sores or disturb, they can stay,” he said.
Phnom Penh needs to manage “social order” to preserve the nation’s image for tourists and television crews during the Water Festival, he added.
Wheelchair-bound Nguon Vet said on Wednesday in Phnom Penh that he is worried about being apprehended ahead of the lucrative Water Festival period.
Other disabled beggars, like Chea Nguy, said that the festival is the best time of year to earn some money. “During the festival, I expect I will make a lot of money, like last year.” he said.