The Khmer Rouge-theme restaurant—which shocked some visitors with its waitresses in black pajamas serving Pol Pot regime rice gruel—was officially shuttered by the Phnom Penh Municipal Tourism Department on Tuesday, its owner said.
L’histoire Cafe, located across the street from the Tuol Sleng Genocide Museum, was closed unofficially earlier this month after the Tourism Ministry announced that it did not have a proper license.
“I was denied to allow to reopen my restaurant Tuesday by municipal tourism officials,” restaurant owner Hakpry Sochivan said, adding that the officials told him he will not be issued a license.
The officials said, however, that he would be allowed to reopen if he dropped the controversial Khmer Rouge theme.
“I never think about politics, and there is no law to prohibiting people from wearing black clothes and selling porridge,” he added.
Chin Samorn, chief of the tourism department, said a license was not granted because his superiors did not support the cafe.
“I can’t allow him to open this restaurant because it has no permission,” Chin Samorn said. “He was not doing right. We already have Tuol Sleng and other places for tourists.”
Chin Samorn added that it was not the tourism department’s aim to stifle free enterprise.
“We have tried to allow people to make business and to reduce poverty and attract more tourists into the country. He should open a simple restaurant as other people have done,” Chin Samorn said.
But Hakpry Sochivan asserted that his cafe differed little from the Apsara dancers who perform at restaurants in Siem Reap.
“Our country is following democracy and lets people do every business. I wonder why they do not allow me to do this one,” he said.
Thong Khon, Ministry of Tourism secretary of state, said he had questions about the restaurant that remained unanswered.
“I am waiting to see the report from the Municipal Tourism Department about the restaurant and their real purpose. We will question each other about this matter,” Thong Khon said.
“I don’t know [Hakpry Sochivan’s] real purpose. When we know it, we will consider what to do next.”