Restaurants and clubs in Siem Reap district must close at midnight starting next week, a government subdecree has ordered.
“Every restaurant, massage parlor and entertainment club in all of Siem Reap district must cease operating at midnight,” said the letter signed earlier this month by CPP provincial First Deputy Governor Oung Oeun. The letter adds that “any business owners who fail to comply with the order will have their businesses shut down.”
Youth gangs, street children and drug addicts have caused anarchy and turmoil, destroying the social atmosphere and public order, which leads to various problems in society, the letter stated.
Also included were strict orders to the police commissioner and provincial military police to work together in distributing the letter to provincial business owners.
Brigadier General Nuon Bophal, provincial police chief of Siem Reap, said Thursday that the regulations will take effect next week, without exception, after the police finish distributing the letters to businesses. No one is exempt, “not even a street milkshake vendor,” he said.
“If the business owners do not comply with the new order, all of their belongings will be confiscated,” Nuon Bophal said. But he added that the owners could be released the next morning after questioning and documentation by the police.
The order takes effect Monday. Nuon Bophal said that police have already earmarked trucks to collect the property of anyone who is found to be operating after midnight.
The business curfew comes as tourism in Siem Reap recovers from the regional outbreak of severe acute respiratory syndrome.
A Siem Reap restaurant owner, who declined to give his name but said he was owns the Forest Hut restaurant, said the curfew sends an improper signal to tourists.
“The curfew looks alarming. It gives the impression that the province is not safe,” he said. His restaurant specializes in Western food for its many foreign guests.
Authorities came to his restaurant last weekend, to give him a copy of the order and to ask him to thumbprint the contract pledging not to operate after midnight, he said. If he violates the order, his business will be closed.
Ministry of Tourism Secretary of State Thong Khon said Thursday the curfew will not hurt the tourism industry because authorities are improving visitors’ safety during their stay in the province.
He said exceptions would be made for places that authorities judged to be safe and that were also popular with tourists.
“Security forces will be added to any areas considered a place of exception to allow the establishments to remain open longer,” Thong Khon said.
With the midnight closing time order soon to be enforced, Nuon Bophal said he wanted Siem Reap to be a site for culture, not a zone for bars and prostitutes.
“This is an area of cultural tourism. It is not an area of sex and drinking,” he said.