Phnom Penh’s brothels will be allowed to remain open through the weekend, despite having been ordered to close during previous Water Festivals, city officials said Tuesday.
“We have not been ordered to close brothels during the Water Festival. However, we have banned sex workers from soliciting customers in public areas,” said Mann Chhoeun, chief of the municipal Cabinet.
He added that the policy change had been pushed for by NGOs that encouraged wider distribution of condoms and health education literature instead of a weakly enforced prohibition.
Traditionally, boat racers from the provinces have celebrated victories on the river with a visit to the city’s brothels.
“Our provincial officials have trained and informed their boat racers and residents coming to the festival in the city on how to protect themselves from HIV/AIDS,” Mann Chhoeun said.
HIV/AIDS awareness efforts have also been organized by the HIV/AIDS Coordinating Committee, the National AIDS Authority, the Ministry of Health and the National Center for HIV/AIDS, Dermatology and STDs.
Their campaign began Wednesday and will run through Cambodia’s Independence Day on Sunday, according to HACC coordinator Seng Sopheap.
More than 1,500 volunteers from 80 NGOs will be on the streets handing out 20,200 condoms, 27,000 leaflets, 5,200 booklets, 5,000 hats, 5,000 T-shirts, 4,050 posters, 2,000 stickers, 500 flyers, 50 key chains, 500 visors and 130 banners, he said.
The volunteers will canvas both banks of the river and the areas around the entertainment stages.
Seng Sopheap said that this will be the eighth HACC Water Festival campaign. He said this year’s slogan is “Live and Let Live.”
As for other Water Festival preparations, the municipality has put 60 public toilets on street corners, doubling the number of facilities made available last year. “We have installed a lot of public toilets for boat racing spectators in order to keep our city more beautiful, because there were not enough public toilets serving people in previous years,” Mann Chhoeun said.
Nuon Someth, vice chief of the municipal Cabinet, said that at least 1.5 million people from the provinces are expected to flood Phnom Penh in the coming days.