A Phnom Penh nightclub that finds it can attract large numbers of high school students by opening in the afternoons is drawing official fire.
“The Rock Entertainment Club opening during the day has had a real impact on students and is poisoning youth society,” said Tauch Sarou, deputy secretary of state of the Ministry of Culture and Fine Arts.
“It has to have an effect on the studies of these students, especially on Fridays, which are not school holidays,” said Royal University of Law and Economics professor Ros Sisovanna. “I don’t know what goes on in there, but I don’t want the Rock Club to open on Friday afternoons. It can cause students to skip class and wear inappropriate clothes to school.”
The Rock Entertainment Club, which has a dance floor, karaoke rooms, a casino, and massage, as well as food service and a small hotel, draws a crowd every weekend of about 600-700 high school students, ages 17-18, according to Aoun Thou, a 27-year-old waiter at the club. “Some come in their school uniforms and others dress for going out to a dance club.”
The Rock opens from 1:30-4:30 p.m. every Friday through Sunday, with an admission charge of $1.50 per person.
“I always come here with my girlfriend every Friday afternoon to dance,” said 18-year-old Kim Sopheaktra, a student at Sisowat High School. “Rock is a nice place, with hip-hop music and a lot of teenagers.”
“The Rock decided to open in the day time when we saw students were going far outside of town afterschool, to Preak Leap or Kien Svay, so it was good business for the Rock to take advantage and try to bring them to our club,” said Rock marketing manager Bun Rith, noting that the club, first established in 2006, has had afternoon business hours for about a year.
Khmer Culture Foundation chairman Moeung Sonn said that places like the Rock Club “really poison society, especially students who are the human resources for developing the future.”
Sonn said he’s been to the club and “saw a lot of young couples in skimpy clothes dancing like crazy.” He urged the Ministry of Culture and Fine Arts to carefully inspect the impact of clubs like this on Cambodian culture.
“Girls can easily become vulnerable by drinking or taking drugs given to them by their friends. It can have a real negative impact on students as it’s close to their schools and can tempt them to use drugs and alcohol,” said Licadho president Kek Galabru. “Some students are lying to their parents that they are going to school, but they aren’t.”
“The Rock doesn’t allow students under 16 or students wearing their school uniforms,” asserted Bun Rith. “We have never received any complaints from neighbors, from nearby schools or from the authorities about noise.”
He also noted that the Rock was not the only club open during the daytime hours.
The Man U snooker club, located on Street 63 near the Sorya Shopping Center, is less than 100 meters from Wat Koh High School. The club draws large numbers of students every afternoon, according to Man U employee Kim Liza.
“I always come here to play snooker with my friends for an hour or two after school,” said Wat Koh student Heng Dara. “I like coming here because it’s close to school, has new pool tables and a lot of pretty girls.”
Cambodian Independent Teachers Association chairman Rong Chhun said these sorts of places opening during school hours were a distraction to students and were causing increasing numbers of students to wear inappropriate attire to school.
“The authorities should act to control the operations of entertainment clubs near schools,” Rong Chhun said.
Kek Galabru agreed, saying, “The government needs to take action to prevent nightclubs from opening in the day time.”
They were a negative influence on young people who needed to stay focused on their education, she said.
The Minister of Education, Youth and Sport, Dr. Kol Pheng, said the ministry had no legal authority to regulate the location or operation of these types of businesses. All karaoke parlors and nightclubs had the potential for abuse and for a negative impact on youth, regardless of their locations, he added.
To discourage students from heading to these types of facilities in the afterschool hours, the ministry updated the curricula back in 2005, he said, increasing the number of lecture hours and imposing stricter codes of discipline and conduct.
Collective efforts by teachers, parents and the community were required to build good education and good character in youth, Kol Pheng said.