Rights Groups Protest Illegal Round-Ups of City Homeless

NGOs and human rights workers demanded an end to illegal round-ups of the capital’s homeless people and street children in a meeting last week with the Minister of Social Affairs.  

NGOs, including Mith Sam­lanh/Friends, Krousar Thmey, World Vision, and rights group Licadho made their demands at a meeting convened Wednesday to discuss drafting a national policy to deal with homelessness.

On several recent occasions, “the people who gathered the children and street families forced these people into trucks at midnight,” said Sebastien Marot, coordinator for Mith Sam­lanh­/Friends. “Some children and wo­men were punched and kicked and beaten by wooden sticks.”

Once rounded up, homeless people are brought to “social centers,” where many are locked up for three days with no food, water or bathroom access, according to a Mith Samlanh report.

According to the report, municipal officials stated that 490 people are currently held at the Chaom Chau Youth Rehabilitation Center, run by the Ministry of Social Affairs, and at the Phnom Penh municipal social affairs center, both in Chaom Chau commune in Dangkao district.

The NGOs and rights group is attempting to push for access to the social centers, said Marot and lawyer Ham Sunrith from Lic­adho. Director of Cabinet Touch Chhay, of the Ministry of Social Affairs, said that the process of outlining a national guideline takes time and it has to be done properly.

“If the guidelines are unclear then it might cause more problems,” Touch Chhay said.

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