The Phnom Penh Municipality has set up a sub-committee to manage the flow of people coming from the provinces who end up living on the streets of the capital.
A notice dated Wednesday and signed by Phnom Penh Governor Kep Chuktema said its purpose would be to “set up a common strategy to resolve the street people situation to include rehabilitation, integration into the community and prevent the arrival of people begging on the street.”
The strategy is also to include giving street people temporary shelter so that they could get support, access to health services and training, and transport back to their home provinces, according to the notice.
But on Sunday, people begging at Wat Phnom, O’Russei market and in front of the Royal palace interpreted this announcement as an attempt to get rid of them at any cost.
Pouk Ngan, a 46-year-old beggar from Svay Rieng province recalled a similar campaign in 2002 when he was taken with more than 100 other street people in two trucks, and dropped off 100 km from the capital, in the remote area of Pich Nil in Kompong Speu province.
Huon Saroeun, a 32-year-old soldier demobilized in 1998, said it took him and others two days on foot to return to the capital. “I would not beg for money if the municipality really provided us with training courses and temporary accommodation,” he said.
“They need to clean the city but, unfortunately, they clean the city by taking the poor to…remote areas,” said Pouk Ngan.
Sub-committee members include Kep Chuktema as director, First Deputy Governor Mam Bun Neang as deputy director, municipal police chief Heng Pov and municipal military police chief Ya Kim Y.
“This sub-committee will not help us,” said Chhun Run, who came from Prey Veng province more than a decade ago when a poor harvest forced her and her family to beg. “Its creation is just a way to use armed police to catch us,” she said.
Kep Chuktema and Mam Bun Neang could not be reached for comments on Sunday.
In October, the Council of Ministers announced the creation of a national committee designed to better handle the destitute in the country. The statement released on Oct 21 did not specify how the committee would deal with street people.