Streets Will Be Cleared of Vagrants During Water Festival

Vagrants will be rounded up across Phnom Penh in the coming days as dozens of municipal social affairs department officials work with police to clear the streets during the Water Festival celebrations, an official said on Tuesday.

Beggars—ranging from the disabled to the homeless—typically pour in from the provinces during the capital’s traditional water races, said Sorn Sophal, the city’s social affairs department director.

Crowds at the Water Festival in Phnom Penh in 2014. (Siv Channa/The Cambodia Daily)
Crowds attend the Water Festival in Phnom Penh in 2014. (Siv Channa/The Cambodia Daily)

This year, “we already have a plan to prevent the problem,” he said.

Ninety-one officials from his department have been selected to help police clear these “professional beggars” from the streets, he said, adding that much of the work would take place during the festival, from Sunday through Tuesday.

Mr. Sophal estimated that 300 people would be detained.

“They bring disabled kids who have big heads, are legless or are armless to beg for money,” he said. “We will crack down on them. We cannot let them do this anymore.”

Child exploitation was of specific concern, he said, adding “this is child labor and we need to crack down.”

Mr. Sophal declined to explain what would happen to those who were detained.

Also ahead of the festivities, the National Police posted—for a short time on its website—the photographs and offenses of 78 criminals who had served time and were expected to “commit crime again” during the festival, deputy National Police commissioner Kang Sokhorn said.

“Police posted the portraits of those suspected of stealing, bag snatching and robbery to alert people to join in protecting their own property during the Water Festival,” the website read.

According to Mr. Sokhorn, the majority of those pictured had been released from prison in recent months. He declined to comment further.

By Tuesday evening the photographs had been removed from the website.

Ath Bunny, director of the National Police website, said that he was unaware of the post as he had been on holiday. It was unclear if the effort to alert the public would resume.

Meanwhile, seven inmates are set to receive a royal pardon, a long-running tradition for the festival, while another 80 will have their sentences reduced, according to Ministry of Justice spokesman Chin Malin. The list of inmates has not yet been released.

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