Logo of Phnom Penh Post newspaper Phnom Penh Post - Homeless, sex workers swept away for Xi visit

Homeless, sex workers swept away for Xi visit

Detainees sit on the steps of a building at Phnom Penh’s Prey Speu social affairs centre last month.
Detainees sit on the steps of a building at Phnom Penh’s Prey Speu social affairs centre last month. Erin Handley

Homeless, sex workers swept away for Xi visit

More than 50 people were rounded up from the streets of Phnom Penh in the early hours of yesterday morning, destined for the infamous Prey Speu detention centre, as city officials attempted to “clean” and “decorate” the city ahead of Chinese President Xi Jinping’s arrival.

The 53 individuals, consisting largely of the homeless, beggars and sex workers, were grabbed from areas around the Royal Palace, riverside and other parts of Daun Penh district, said Ouk Samal, Daun Penh district’s administration chief.

“We made a plan two days in advance to make our district clean and beautiful,” Samal said. “We did that especially on the big occasion of the arrival the Chinese delegation.”

The roundup had been promised a day before by City Hall spokesman Mean Chanyada.

“We have to round up the beggars, the homeless and sex workers to beautify our Phnom Penh for the special arrival of the Chinese president. We did that for the beauty and order of our Phnom Penh,” he said.

Daun Penh District Governor Kouch Chamroeun dismissed the roundup as a routine event, confirming it had been done specifically for Xi’s visit.

Such street sweeps ahead of state visits have long-established precedent. In 2012, ahead of an ASEAN summit, more than 800 street dwellers and sex workers were cleared from Phnom Penh streets.

Deputy director for Prey Speu Van Ngat said those grabbed yesterday were being held at the Ministry of Social Affairs and would be sent to Prey Speu soon. “We still have to document and classify them as homeless, underage or sex workers,” he said.

City officials have been routinely criticised for sending people to the notorious detention centre, which has been slammed by international rights groups and the United Nations for its inhumane conditions and lack of medical facilities.

Phil Robertson, deputy director for Asia at Human Rights Watch, said the centre was a “prime example of impunity to abuse rights” and was now being used to hide the poor and disadvantaged from a foreign leader. “It’s really outrageous that after all the many exposés of the violations that happen there, nothing ever changes,” he said.

James Sutherland, communications coordinator for Friends International, said such roundups were unacceptable, whatever the reasons offered, adding that only sustainable solutions “will actually get people off the streets and away from dangerous or risky life situations”.

MOST VIEWED

  • Angkor lifetime pass, special Siem Reap travel offers planned

    The Ministry of Tourism plans to introduce a convenient, single lifetime pass for foreign travellers to visit Angkor Archaeological Park and potentially other areas. The move is designed to stimulate tourism to the culturally rich province of Siem Reap as the start of the “Visit

  • Ice cream, noodles flagged over carcinogen

    The General Department of Customs and Excise of Cambodia (GDCE) has identified three types of instant noodles and ice cream trademarks originating from Thailand, Vietnam and France that are suspected to contain ethylene oxide, which poses a cancer risk to consumers. The general department has

  • Exclusive interview with Josep Borrell Fontelles, High Representative of the EU

    CAMBODIA is hosting the 55th ASEAN Foreign Ministers’ Meeting (AMM) and Related Meetings this week with top officials from the US, China, and Russia and other countries in the region slated to attend and to meet with face-to-face with their counterparts on the sidelines. In

  • Rise in Thai air routes to Siem Reap fuels travel hopes

    Local tourism industry players are eager for regional airline Bangkok Airways Pcl’s resumption of direct flight services between the Thai capital and Siem Reap town on August 1 – home of Cambodia’s awe-inspiring Angkor Archaeological Park – which is expected to boost the growth rate of

  • ASEAN Foreign Ministers’ meet commences, Taiwan issue possibly on table

    The 55th ASEAN Foreign Ministers’ Meeting (AMM) and related meetings hosted by Cambodia kicks off in Phnom Penh on August 3, with progress, challenges, and the way forward for the ASEAN Community-building on the table. Issues on Taiwan, sparked by the visit of US House Speaker

  • Recap of this year’s ASEAN FM meet and look ahead

    This year’s edition of the ASEAN Foreign Ministers’ Meeting (AMM) hosted by Cambodia comes against the backdrop of heightened global tensions and increasing rivalry between major powers that have been compared to the animosity of the Cold War era. The following is The Post’