Alcohol Banned During Election Weekend

Prime Minister Hun Sen has ordered a ban on selling alcohol at bars and restaurants over the national election weekend later this month.

In a statement signed Thurs­day and received Monday, Hun Sen said the measure will be in operation for 48 hours beginning at midnight July 26 until 11:59 pm on election day, July 27.

“Cambodian and foreign citizens here must cooperate with the government,” Hun Sen warned.

The teetotal measure is being instituted to ensure the vote proceeds in a non-violent fashion, without intimidation, threats and other incidents associated with excessive alcohol consumption, Hun Sen wrote.

“Military police, police and local authorities at all levels must educate all people to implement this directive to suspend the selling or drinking of alcohol with the aim of…having an environment for the election that is free, fair and non-violent,” he added.

Phnom Penh Governor Kep Chuktema said he met with city officials Monday to inform them about the alcohol ban and said officials would implement it

“Cambodians will respect it and foreigners living here must res­pect it too,” Kep Chuktema said.

However, NEC Secretary-Gen­eral Tep Nytha said that those who did not obey the directive would not be prosecuted.

“This is an ethical social participation,” he said Monday.

A number of bar owners in Phnom Penh interviewed Mon­day said their earnings would be badly hit as a result of the ban, but they would obey the order nonetheless.

So Ma, an accountant at Metro cafe in Phnom Penh, said she understood the reasoning of the government.

“From a law and order perspective, it is a good idea as this is an important event for the people, but if we had a choice from a business point of view, of course we would serve alcohol as usual,” she said Monday.

Benjamin Le Grand, food and drink manager at the FCC restaurant in Phnom Penh, said he had heard nothing officially about the new measure, but estimated revenue would be reduced by be­tween $2,000 to $4,000 as a result of the ban.

“It is the first time I have heard of something like this in Cambo­dia,” he said. “I don’t think it is a good idea. An election should be a happy occasion, so why should people not be able to have a drink if they wish?”

Le Grand said that unless management received official notification of the order, business would proceed normally on that weekend.

“It will not be implemented simply because we read about it in the newspapers,” he added.

Sarath Khun of the Riverhouse Lounge on the riverfront said he had also received no official notification about the ban.

“We will lose a lot of money, but we will respect the law,” he said. “But there was no problem when we opened during the last election.”

Puthea Hang, director of the Neutral and Impartial Committee for Free Elections in Cambodia, said the directive was a good idea.

“A lot of violent incidents are provoked by alcohol,” he said.

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