Guards Get Trash Duty After Cleanup Video

Two days after a video posted on Facebook showed workers sweeping Water Festival trash into the Tonle Sap river, Phnom Penh security guards were on riverside cleanup duty.

About 50 Daun Penh district guards shared shifts collecting garbage from the water and river embankments, starting at 7:30 a.m. on Thursday near the Chaktomuk Theater.

Daun Penh district security guards remove litter from the Tonle Sap River in Phnom Penh on Thursday. (Siv Channa/The Cambodia Daily)
Daun Penh district security guards remove litter from the Tonle Sap River in Phnom Penh on Thursday. (Siv Channa/The Cambodia Daily)

“The plan is after the festival they clean the embankment, and the next day they clean what falls in the water,” said district governor Kuoch Chamroeun.

“There’s no policy to dump trash into the river,” he added.

City Hall spokesperson Mean Chanyada said that districts are responsible for cleaning the riverside in their areas.

By 10:45 a.m., about six uniformed guards and a few other men had worked their way north, across the street from Wat Ounalom. Using two boats, they collected trash from the water using bamboo poles, oars and their bare hands, and tossed it into baskets and trash bags.

In the Facebook video posted on Tuesday, which had nearly 160,000 views as of Thursday evening, men in civilian clothes used brooms to sweep plastic bags, food containers and other refuse down the concrete riverside embankment and into the water.

Nick Sells, the photographer who recorded the video on Monday, said in an email that about seven men exited a Phnom Penh City Hall truck near the Night Market, “surveyed the area quickly, then just started sweeping into the river.”

Mr. Chanyada said the video, which he said he had not seen, was recorded with a purpose.

“The photograph was taken with intention, so that it taken to get gets attention. It becomes a sensitive issue for the media,” Mr. Chanyada said, referring to Mr. Sell’s video.

Mr. Chamroeun said that he hadn’t seen it.

“Usually the staff from City Hall’s general department of public works and transportation sweep and collect trash from the riverside, but don’t sweep trash into the river,” he said.

By 11:30 a.m. on Thursday, Mr. Chamroeun estimated his staff had collected 50 bags of trash, which were brought to the roadside to be picked up by Cintri, the private waste management company contracted by the city.

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Correction: An earlier version of this article misattributed a quote to City Hall spokesperson Mean Chanyada.

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