Battambang authorities have carried out a city sweep that has seen about 130 people dubbed homeless, drug addicts or suffering from mental health issues and disabilities removed from the streets as part of a beautification project.
The move forms part of the city’s drive to clean up its act as it prepares to compete in the upcoming CLEAN ASEAN CITY 2022. Authorities carried out the campaign on August 3 after the deadline to remove advertising banners and hoarding from buildings to beautify the aesthetics of the heritage city.
Moul Thun, Battambang Provincial Administration Director, said on Thursday that the removal of people from the streets is to maintain public order in the city.
“It has to do with anarchy and to keep order so tourists do not get bored whenever walking along the street and meet with people who sniff the glue on the streets, especially those associated with the strongest drugs. This is a big problem,” he said.
He added, “They beg for money and steal things a lot.”
Between August 3 and 4, about 130 people had been collected, with more to pursue.
Sous Sopheak, Director of Battambang Provincial Information Department, told Kiripost that the removal of advertising banners from properties has got well underway and has almost reached 100 percent achievement.
“Due to the fact that previously citizens who run businesses have put the huge brand advertisement labels, which obscures the style of ancient buildings and leads to lost aesthetics. Therefore, the administration asked them to remove it and follow the sample structure to highlight the design of the old buildings,” he said.
Sopheak added, “Most of the citizens there all agreed with the removal of advertising banners and have contributed to the removal.”
These actions were implemented as Battambang province prepares to defend the title it has previously won twice in the clean city awards.
Sopheak confirmed that the sweep of people contributes to efforts to boost Battambang’s aesthetics.
“We deliver them to different centers by dividing them according to their situations. There are drug addicts that we take to the drug rehabilitation center to help neutralize drugs. For psychotics, we brought them to Kandal [center] for curing them,” he said. “Some homeless people have gone back to their hometowns.”
According to a post on Wednesday on the personal Facebook account of Sok Lou, Battambang Provincial Governor, those with mental health issues and disabilities and drug addicts, who he claims often cause insecurity and disorder in Battambang City, have been sent to the National Rehabilitation Center (Keo Phos) in Rithy Village, Preah Sihanouk Province, and also send to the Social Rehabilitation Center.
Soeng Sen Karuna, spokesman at local rights group Adhoc, said instead of gathering up these people and sending them to centers, they should be provided with training and skills to support the improvement of their livelihoods.
“We have noticed when I arrived at the centers, there are issues like unhealed people and some of them don’t have shelter, and it’s difficult for them. I see this issue needs to be prepared as a system that should provide working skills training for them before letting them leave the center in order to make sure they have the ability to live on their own,” he said.
He added that all of those actions can be achieved, however, no practical solution has yet been provided.