Authorities in Preah Sihanouk province have had yet another change of heart about the notoriously wild Kazantip music festival, pulling the event from Sihanoukville’s Koh Puos island for a second time, with one official citing a desire to dissuade “indecent tourism.”
The 10-day electronic music festival was due to commence on Koh Puos on Wednesday, but police and military police have been deployed to block the bridge linking the island to the mainland to prevent the rave from going ahead, according to provincial deputy governor Chhin Seng Nguon.
Mr. Seng Nguon, who on Monday led a task force to inspect the planned festival site, said security forces had also been stationed on the island itself.
“Provincial authorities have totally canceled the Kazantip concert on Koh Puos and now we have deployed our forces to block [the bridge],” he said.
Mr. Seng Nguon said Kazantip organizers had been asked to sign a contract agreeing to cease any activities on the island, and threatened to take legal action if they ignored the provincial government’s decision.
“Our principal focus is on ecotourism and cultural tourism and we don’t need indecent tourism,” he added.
Provincial governor Chhit Sokhon confirmed that Kazantip had been canceled and that security forces were posted on the bridge to Koh Puos. He called the festival an “illegal” event, pointing to a February 4 letter that originally banned the event.
Mr. Sokhon added, however, that the festival might yet go forward with approval from the Tourism Ministry.
Kazantip was held on the Crimean Peninsula for consecutive years before being moved last year to Georgia, where it drew the ire of Christian groups for its hedonistic reputation.
This year’s event was formally approved by officials in Preah Sihanouk on January 30.
But on February 2, Mr. Sokhon announced that the festival would be canceled, citing concerns over “sexy activities.”
A week later, the governor publicly backtracked on those comments, saying he did not oppose the event as long as the Tourism Ministry allowed it.
“We will not ban it,” Tourism Minister Thong Khon said at the time, but added that the decision ultimately rested with the provincial authorities.
Three days later, on February 13, the festival’s organizers said they had received the green light from both the tourism and culture ministries.
The next twist in the saga came on Saturday when two Russian men were arrested in Sihanoukville over an attack on a group of people at the Queenco Hotel and Casino the night before during which a Moldovan man was stabbed in the torso and another was reportedly injured.
Among the group assaulted was the manager of Lotus Tours, the company handling ticket sales for Kazantip, who escaped injury but was allegedly told that his wife and children would be killed if he did not agree to hand over 50 percent of ticket revenue.
Asked if the eleventh-hour decision to cancel the festival was influenced by the weekend’s violence, Mr. Sokhon said the attack was a “separate case.”
Both the governor and his deputy said that any losses from ticket sales or accommodation payments as a result of the cancellation were the organizers’ to bear.
Mr. Sokhon added that tourists would still be allowed to go to Koh Puos for “normal visits.”
Mr. Khon, the tourism minister, could not be reached on Tuesday. Kazantip organizers did not respond to multiple requests for comment.
However, a sign in Russian and English purportedly posted on the bridge leading to Koh Puos on Tuesday states that the organizers had been “forced to temporarily suspend the preparatory activity on the island of Koh Puos” by order of the governor, and directed people to Kazantip’s website for updates. A photograph of the sign was provided by business partners of Lotus Tours.
Tuesday evening, the website’s home page continued to offer a single optimistic message: “I hope that no one doubts that the Republic is able to move in space rapidly and create colonies within a few months.”