Vendors Mull Dry-Polls Plea

Drink vendors could be facing an election-day dilemma: to sell or not to sell.

Cambodia’s two prime ministers have appealed to citizens and foreigners alike to refrain from drinking or selling alcoholic beverages on election day.

The appeal, signed June 2 by First Prime Minister Ung Huot and Second Prime Minister Hun Sen, calls for all to “cooperate with the government and the NEC [National Election Com­mittee] to prevent violent acts, which can be caused by drinking.”

The premiers are requesting the ban be in effect from midnight July 25 to midnight July 26. Polls are scheduled to be open between 7 am and 4 pm on July 26.

Cambodian vendors interviewed Sunday seemed willing to go along, but were concerned about the money they could lose and whether their competitors would follow suit.

“I will not be disappointed if all the shops in Cambodia are closed on election day,” said Morm Chantha, who owns a drink shop near Psar Kandal. “But I will not be pleased if some drink shops are open and mine is closed.” She said she could lose more than $12.50 on election day—the am­ount of her rent.

“I have heard of the appeal of both prime ministers, but I wonder why in Untac time [1993] they did not do it like this,” said My Morn, a duck blood wine seller in the capital’s Tuol Kok district. “I will agree to that appeal when all drink shop owners agree to close theirs.”

My Morn did say he believes the request may make some sense. “You see, if people drink

…they might make trouble and we will be ashamed in front of the foreign [community],” he said.

But he also disagreed with ex­tending the ban until midnight. He noted that the polls close at

4 pm, and said he should be al­lowed to sell his wine after that.

Some owners of bars catering to Phnom Penh’s expatriate community said the prime ministers have raised an interesting point and noted that other countries have similar provisions for election day.

“If Cambodia wishes me to close my bar, I’m more than hap­py to do so,” said Ian Travis, co-owner of the DMZ bar.

Government officials couldn’t be reached for comment Sunday on whether or not the “appeal” is an order that could include fines for shops that sell alcoholic beverages.

According to the document, police and local authorities have been instructed to help educate the public and make sure the appeal is followed so that a positive atmosphere can be created for the elections.

The ministries of Interior, De­fense and In­formation have been called on to cooperate with the NEC to disseminate the ap­peal.

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