A complaint has been lodged with the Ministry of Tourism against a Phnom Penh hotel that bars children from its premises, which the complainant says discriminates against families and breaks the law.
David Van filed his complaint with the ministry after he and his 9-year-old son were reportedly asked to leave the Pavilion Hotel in Phnom Penh where they had ordered food and had been eating for about an hour as they waited for another guest.
Van, who works as a trade development official with the UN Development Program, said in his complaint that a hotel or restaurant that forbids children on its premises should notify people as they arrive, not an hour after their arrive and in the middle of a meal.
“In no country…there is a law that allows establishments in the hospitality industry to blatantly apply such discriminatory policies,” Van wrote in his complaint addressed to Tourism Minister Thong Khon, whom he asked to look into the incident.
In a similar incident involving the Pavilion, another senior UNDP official was told by hotel guards that she, her husband and their two adopted Cambodian children were not allowed on the premises because of the property’s “no child sex tourism” policy.
The woman, who asked not to be identified, said that she was especially offended to be indirectly accused of sex tourism while being with her two Cambodian children.
Pavilion Manager Alexis Desuremain said he regretted what had happened but that the Pavilion’s “no child” policy had been implemented following complaints filed by guests, and that he had opened the nearby Kabiki guesthouse to cater to families.
“I suspect that our guard was rude, but I don’t want to hide away from our responsibility,” Desuremain said Wednesday.
“The problems is that, in Southeast Asia, you are under serious pressure from many sides since it is a very common sex destination,” he maintained.
Several other Phnom Penh hotels contacted Wednesday said they allowed children on their premises, but may ask for identification if a Westerner and a Cambodian come on the premises or ask for a room if sex tourism is suspected.
When asking customers for identification, however, hotels are “between a rock and a hard place,” when it comes to offending someone, said Larry Meley, of Phnom Penh’s Billabong Hotel.
While the government urges hotels to work to prevent sex tourism, hotels risk being accused of racism or discrimination when they take action, he said.
Thong Khon could not be reached for comment on Wednesday.