Some Owners Link License Crackdown To Gov’t Strong-Arming

Concerns are rising around Boeng Kak lake as authorities have started to enforce new rules for business licenses, which could affect many of the popular guesthouses in the back-packer tourist area, several owners said Monday.

If a guesthouse has more than 10 rooms for rent the premises must now apply for permission from the municipal commerce department and the m­unicipal tourism department, said Chan Soriya, chief of Village Number 6, which is where many of the businesses are located.

If a guesthouse has less than 10 rooms the owners must apply for a new license with the district authorities, Mr Soriya said, add-

ing that he would start checking all the licenses of the 15 guesthouses under his jurisdiction some time next week.

“The new directives were issued almost one year ago, and we’ve been carrying out the directives to ensure we could control the situation and security as well…. I’ll be starting to search the guesthouses running businesses passed expiration date [of their licenses],” he said.

Last week police shut down the Lazy Fish guesthouse after they discovered its business license had expired.

But human rights groups said the guesthouse was closed be-

cause the owner had agreed to allow his premises to be used as a venue for a public forum on housing rights in the lake area, which is currently in the crosshairs of a massive urban eviction that may require the relocation of 4,000 families from lake-side communities.

The closure of Lazy Fish has sent chills through the lake area, and guesthouse owners interviewed Monday said they were worried that the new directives would be used as an excuse to shut them down at will.

“I was told no further extensions would be allowed anymore. This is worrisome, maybe this is part of a strategy, maybe it is the first step to shut down the guesthouses,” said a Western owner of a guesthouse with 10 rooms.

The owner said he was ap-

proached by a police officer two weeks ago who said it would be easy to renew his license. But when the policeman returned on Saturday he was told the application had been denied and that no more licenses would be renewed in the area.

The owner, who asked that only his first name, Harry, be used, said that he was told he could operate without a license for a few months, but that he was worried he would be closed down sooner if he could not get a new license.

A 40-year-old guesthouse owner, who spoke on condition of anonymity, said he had applied for a new license over three months ago but has not received approval yet.

“Generally to apply for a new license, we will get approval…the same day or just two days later, but this time it is really strange,” the owner said.

“We, the owners of the guesthouses here dare not even meet to talk…because we are concerned the authorities will use a small excuse to shut our small businesses down,” he added.

Sia Phearum, director for Housing Rights Task Force, said the government has used the courts and other administrative means to threaten the estimated 4,000 families living around the lake.

Mr Phearum said his organization will investigate the business license situation.

Phnom Penh municipal governor Kep Chuktema and Sok Penhvuth, deputy governor for Daun Penh district, could not be reached for comment Monday.






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