Rights groups slam Cambodia’s proposed clean-up drive

For almost 20 years, Lom Rithy has walked the streets of Phnom Penh with her cart, selling cold beverages to Cambodians. Although she doesn’t earn much, it is enough for the 37-year-old to take care of her family.

“On an average, I make a daily profit of around $5 (€4,23),” she told DW.

According to the Independent Democracy of Informal Economy Association (IDEA), there are around 16,000 street vendors in Phnom Penh. But Cambodian authorities believe the street shops are causing disorder in the city. The government is now working on a law to make the city clean and orderly, which is likely to affect the vendors.

The proposal was slammed by Cambodian and international rights organizations. In a joint statement, the groups said the draft law “effectively criminalizes legitimate everyday activities of many within the Kingdom of Cambodia,” adding that the proposed law “severely undermines human rights.”

“We are concerned that the law would be used to harass street vendors,” Keo Poeurn, a spokesman for IDEA, told DW. “The law will allow police to harass poor people and prevent them from doing business,” he added.

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Ate Hoekstra (Phnom Penh)