Show Won’t Go On for Blind Musical Performers—for Now

Blind performers are refusing to play their first show at Wat Phnom, one of three new performance sites designated by City Hall last month, until they receive new instruments and sound equipment paid for by Prime Minister Hun Sen.

About 200 disabled musicians agreed to form five groups last month, after the city banned them from performing and soliciting donations near busy city intersections, claiming they were causing traffic jams and putting themselves in danger.

cam photo blind singers channa
A blind woman sings on Mao Tse Toung Boulevard in Phnom Penh last year.
(Siv Channa/The Cambodia Daily)

The municipal social affairs department authorized the performers to start playing at Wat Phnom this week, and would later open Freedom Park and Wat Botum Park to them, said Sorn Sophal, the department’s director.

“We allowed them already, but they asked not to perform now because they need to prepare their group,” Mr. Sophal said.

Rath Pitou, a representative of one of three performing groups that met with city officials on Monday, said all three groups agreed not to start playing at Wat Phnom “until the equipment that Samdech [Mr. Hun Sen] provided arrives.”

Mr. Pitou said their current equipment was not suitable for the new locations and that one site would not be enough for all five groups. They would have to alternate using a stage at Wat Phnom each week and were only allowed to perform on Fridays, Saturdays and Sundays, he said.

“Each group has to wait for four weeks to get their turn again,” Mr. Pitou said.

Social Affairs Ministry spokesman Em Chan Makara said Mr. Hun Sen would pay for $150,000 worth of instruments, speakers and other sound gear for the performers, and donate 1 million riel, or about $250, to each group per month for a year. The equipment was expected to be delivered in six to eight weeks, he said.

However, Chab Tou, a representative for another performers’ group, which also attended the meeting, said his group would not delay their first performance at Wat Phnom.

“We are still performing because we need to earn income,” he said.

“Disabled people need to work for their daily livelihood, so we will not keep waiting for equipment from Samdech.”

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