Screw off, beggars. Obama's coming to Cambodia.


A Cambodian woman offers bank notes to beggars in Phnom Penh on September 15, 2008.



Ravaged by internal strife, foreign bombs (including unexploded U.S. ordnance) and deep poverty, Cambodia is home to a fair number of beggars.

But just imagine one of them approaching Barack Obama's motorcade, with an outstretched hand and a molded squeegee, as he cruises Phnom Penh during his historic, late November visit to Cambodia.

How embarassing.

To spare Obama the sight of poor urchins, Cambodia's government will round up the capital's street beggars and lock them in a "social affairs" center for the duration of the presidential trip, according to the Phnom Penh Post. Obama, with Russian President Vladimir Putin, Chinese Premier Wen Jiabao and other leaders, will be attending the East Asia Summit, an influential conference held this year in Cambodia.

As a city hall spokesman explains to the Post, witnessing "beggars and children on the street" might cause world leaders to "speak negatively to the government.”

This attitude suggests that Obama will not be treated to a stroll down Phnom Penh's riverside promenade, where he could very well receive offers for ganja, bootleg copies of "Lonely Planet" and a visit to gun ranges stocked with rusty AK-47s -- all from the same tuk-tuk driver.