The government has shaken up the national committee on homelessness and appointed Minister of Social Affairs, Veterans and Youth Rehabilitation Vong Sauth as chairman.
The committee is now made up of 15 government officials and Phnom Penh and provincial governors throughout the country.
According to the government’s November 17 decision seen by The Post on November 22, the composition of government officials serving as members on the committee are from relevant institutions such as the ministries of Interior; Tourism; Economy and Finance; Health; Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation; and Education, Youth and Sports.
The government also announced the annulment of all decisions and regulations contrary to this decision and the officials named in the directive shall perform their duties from the date of signing.
Social affairs ministry spokesman Touch Channy told The Post on November 22 the decision was made after old committee members had changed their roles and responsibilities.
He said a meeting will be held to implement a strategy and set new directions to address homelessness across the country.
“In the future, we will have a committee meeting to meet the new members, and at this meeting we will form a strategy to address the issue.
“At the end of November, we will also conduct a homeless census, which means we will direct all provinces to conduct the same census to find out how many homeless people there are across the country. When we get this data we will decide what to do with it,” he said.
The national committee on homelessness was established by the government in 2005. Channy said the committee had done a lot of work on the issue of homelessness with research, providing various support and integrating homeless people back into the community.
“The authorities have better managed homeless people during this period and the number of homeless people has not increased.
“Most homeless people have [IDPoor] cards, which allow them government benefits and cash,” he said.
According to the latest assessment by the social affairs ministry, there are more than 3,000 homeless people in Cambodia. In Phnom Penh, there are more than 400, most of whom live in the Prey Speu Social Welfare Centre and Orphanage, which is in charge of the elderly and the homeless.
Rights group Licadho deputy director Am Sam Ath said the number of homeless people has been declining. But that does not mean that there are no homeless people, because on the streets and in various districts, there are still many homeless people, including mentally-ill homeless people, he said.
“The new committee should look for strategies to address the integration of homeless people to the community and prevent them from returning to the homeless state of mind,” he said.
“There should be a separate centre for treatment.”
Sam Ath believes if all these problems are not solved, the number of homeless people may increase and affect the government’s image by showing the poverty of the people in the country.