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Citywide vice crackdown targets pornography at bubble tea shops

PHNOM Penh Governor Kep Chuktema has ordered city authorities to inspect bubble tea shops suspected of doubling as pornography theatres and drug dens, and Daun Penh district officials said they were also enforcing a crackdown on restaurants and bars that play loud music after midnight.

In a monthly meeting held at City Hall Monday, Kep Chuktema said illegal bubble tea shops – which have a dividing wall that prevents passersby from seeing pornography on show – were causing students to miss school and neglect their studies.

“The bubble tea shops that are divided by a wall not only cause students to miss school, but also can be drug-trafficking and drug-using areas,” he said. “Our authorities should go check and tell the shop owners to demolish [the wall].”

Sok Penhvuth, Daun Penh district’s deputy governor, said officials in his district were not just focusing on bubble tea shops, but also on discos, night clubs, karaoke bars and massage parlours that might be operating illegally.

“The bubble tea shops we will raid to inspect. If we see they have sex videos, we will close their business and bring them to court,” he said. “The shops that are divided by a wall, we will ask them to tear down [the wall].”

He added that authorities were also cracking down on businesses that were playing music after midnight and disturbing the peace.

“Normally people have the right to do business, but according to a Ministry of Interior order, discos or restaurants that have music should close at 12am if it interrupts people,” he said.

Phnom Penh Police Chief Touch Naruth said he had ordered bubble tea shops with a dividing wall to tear it down immediately or face closure.

“Some of the bubble tea shops can be operated by sex workers, drug traffickers and [be used as] a place for drug-taking, so we have to check and ask for licences,” he said.

A staff member at the Kiss Bubble Tea Shop, who asked not to be named, confirmed that she had received a letter from authorities ordering her to tear down her wall.

“In my shop though, I haven’t divided it with a wall, so I did not tear it down,” she said. “My shop respects the law.”

Chan Soveth, an investigator for rights group Adhoc, said he welcomed the crackdown on illicit bubble tea peddlers.

Authorities “should be clear with shop owners that a bubble tea shop is a bubble tea shop”, he said.

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