Prime Minister Hun Sen issued a directive Tuesday to all governors in the country, stating that the government will shut down all nightclubs, discos and karaoke parlors in Cambodia because of the violence and drug trafficking associated with such establishments.
While the statement by Hun Sen did not include the definition of what constitutes a nightclub or karaoke parlor, the statement sent a clear message that the government will no longer tolerate what it perceives to be a social ill afflicting the country.
“In the past to the present, many offensive acts have occurred from night clubs, pubs, discotheques and karaoke parlors [such as] drug trading, which create crimes and cause disorder and destroy culture,” the prime minister stated in the release. The government said it will close the clubs at 6 pm Friday.
The order will not affect restaurants that have karaoke machines, or public concerts and dances, according to the statement.
An official from the Ministry of Interior said the government has not yet set penalties for clubs and their owners that do not abide by the order, but added that the government will have no difficulty enforcing the order.
“Our opinion is that it is good,” said Phnom Penh Governor Chea Sophara. “The teenage gangs and the drugs—such as ya baa—are a problem for people in the country and especially the violence in these clubs.”
Chea Sophara said the shooting at the Holiday International Hotel on Nov 5 that left three seriously wounded, as well as a shooting early Monday morning at a karaoke parlor located along street 273 in Russei Keo district that left one dead and five wounded, motivated Hun Sen to close all the nightclubs.
Phnom Penh residents have made many requests to the governor’s office recently, asking that certain clubs such as the Holiday International Nightclub—which is attached to the Manhattan Club, a popular disco that was ordered closed by Chea Sophara on Nov 12—be shuttered, he said. The governor could not provide numbers or specific examples of such requests.
Even though the Phnom Penh municipality will not hire more police or form a special task force designed to enforce the new directive, Chea Sophara said the city will have no trouble enforcing the law.
Sentot Sutrisnadi, manager of the Sharaton Cambodia Hotel—which is connected to the Casa nightclub—said he was unaware of the Prime Minister’s order on Tuesday and therefore couldn’t comment on it. Chea Sophara said the Casa nightclub will be one of the night clubs slated for closure. Sentot Sutrisnadi said managers and the owner of the club will hold a meeting to discuss how they will respond.
Victor Chao, manager of the now-closed Manhattans night club, said the owners of these nightclubs will be taking a pretty heavy loss, but if they can reopen under new rules and regulations, the situation can be salvaged and people will still have the confidence to invest in business.
“It’s going to hurt in the short term, but maybe in the long term it will work out best for everybody,” he said.
Hun Sen’s order comes less than a week after the Prime Minister met with Thai Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra in Bangkok. A Bangkok newspaper reported that Hun Sen and Shinawatra discussed regulating nighttime entertainment in Bangkok.
(Additional reporting by Brian Calvert)