Buckets and hoses are apparently still OK, but forget about the water pistols for Khmer New Year—Phnom Penh Governor Chea Sophara has banned water guns within city limits.
Anyone who imports, sells or even plays with water guns will have them confiscated, the governor said. He said the toys would disrupt public order during the four-day holiday.
“Seize them! And if the offenders are stubborn, detain them for education,” Chea Sophara said in a directive issued Monday to city officials and police across Phnom Penh.
Vendors near Psar Chas, who have stocked up on the popular plastic armaments to meet the expected New Year demand, are irate.
“This decision is wrong,” said one wholesaler, who asked not to be identified. He said he bought his water guns legally and he has documents proving all taxes were paid. “If [city officials] prevent me from selling them, I will lose all the money” spent to buy the stock, he said.
Authorities issued a warning about water guns a month ago, but too late for the vendor who said he bought his stock from an importer last October. He said he spent about $5,000.
His stock includes 30 different types of water guns, ranging from 500 riel to $10. His profit margin per gun is less than 500 riel, he said.
The wholesaler also complained that enforcement was random. He said Psar Chas authorities seized all water guns from his sister-in-law’s shop, about 20 meters from his shop, last Tuesday. But they returned them the next day in exchange for a case of beer—and some water guns.
“It is not just for us at all,” the wholesaler fumed. “It is like robbery.”
Meanwhile, parents are in a world of trouble. Chan Sokhon, 48, from Takeo, said he absolutely had to buy a water gun for his 8-year-old son, who has been crying and refusing to eat because all his friends have them and he doesn’t.
“I pity him,” Chan Sokhon said helplessly. “I have four children, but I am only buying one water gun, just for him.”
Then he spent 3,000 riel for a water gun, and headed home.
Already, countless water guns are appearing in city streets and are being fired by pedestrians and from passing motor bikes.