Sung Kea decked out the inside of the Bomb Cafe, in Phnom Penh’s Dangkor district, with bomb remnants to remind his customers of the devastation weapons can have on ordinary people.
But the 42-year-old watched his message march out the door on Saturday as about 30 officials seized his collection of old bombs – many of which are now vases – and shipped them off to a Cambodian Mine Action Centre warehouse.
“They have not allowed me to show these remnants any more – even though they are not live,” he said, adding that they explained it was because the Bomb Cafe was not a registered tourist attraction.
The Post reported on July 13 that Kea had opened the restaurant in Choeung Ek commune, which was heavily hit during clashes between Khmer Rouge cadres and the Lon Nol government in the 1970s.
Kea said last month that his café contained remnants collected from many houses in the commune, offering customers a history lesson while they dined.
Officials, however, had a different idea of the impact the weapons could have on customers.
“The authorities educated me about the negative effects of keeping these remnants,” Kea said. “They said they could upset people and that other people might try to put bombs on display.”
Commune police chief Khoun Yano said officials had no choice but to seize the bomb remnants because of improper registration.
“He [Sung Kea] wants [this area] to become a tourist site – like Aki Ra’s Land Mine Museum in Siem Reap – but he does not have the licences.” Yano said.
“But if Kea gets licences from all relevant institutes, he can get back his bombs and display them as before.”
Kea intends to apply for proper licences as soon as possible.
To contact the reporter on this story: Mom Kunthear at firstname.lastname@example.org