Police will be deployed to guesthouses in Phnom Penh today, and at least one school has asked authorities to crack down on flower sellers in a bid to prevent young lovers indulging in Valentine’s Day activities including sex.
The Phnom Penh municipal authority announced yesterday it would order “all guesthouses and hotels in Phnom Penh” to strengthen security to avoid “anarchy” on a day that is increasingly popular across Cambodia.
Mak Hong, police chief of the capital’s Sen Sok district, said he would send officers to guesthouses and Phnom Penh municipal police chief Touch Naruth has ordered owners to ensure couples who check in today are over 18.
“We just want to prevent anarchy,” Touch Naruth said.
Chhun Sarom, director of Wat Koh high school, said truancy rates on Valentine’s Day had increased in recent years, but he hopes a video supplied by the Ministry of Education will encourage students not to skip school with their sweethearts today.
“Valentine’s Day doesn’t mean that [girls] have to agree to have sex with their boyfriend as a way to prove their love,” he said.
Sivann Botum, secretary of state for the Ministry of Women’s Affairs, told the Post last week the video aimed to buck a trend for girls to consummate their relationships on Valentine’s Day.
“One bunch of flowers doesn’t mean we have to have sex with our boyfriends,” said Sivann Botum. “I beg women to maintain our Khmer traditions, because virginity is very important.”
Chhun Sarom has also asked police to ban flower sellers near his school.
Hout Heng Nin, who works for the Preap Sor guesthouse in Phnom Penh, expects a spike in trade today.
“When people come to stay at our guesthouse, we just ask for their identity card, and allow them to stay when their age is 18 or over,” he said.
Kheng Tito, a spokesman for the military police, said his officers would not be deployed to guesthouses.
“If we do this, maybe we are impinging on people’s rights. If they want to act immorally, they can do that anywhere.”
Tong Soprach, an independent social researcher who studied the Valentine’s Day movements of a group of Cambodians aged 15 to 24 for his master’s thesis at the University of Cambodia, agreed.
“Sex is not only on Valentine’s Day. There are many opportunities for sex.
However, this day is definitely a catalyst for an increase in young people having sex,” he said.
It was extremely uncommon for school-aged couples to have sex in their homes, but their sexual relations are not limited to conventional guesthouses, he said.
“My findings are that many young people are having sex on Valentine’s Day on the outskirts of town in small houses.”
Young couples paid $5 for up to three hours in tiny one-room huts that can fit only two people, he said.
“Girls and young women are taking off their school shirts, wearing face masks and helmets and going there. They want to hide from their parents,” he said.
Young people face pressure from parents and neighbours and many are scared to tell their parents that they are in relationships because it could lead to verbal or physical abuse.
“Many parents and children do not talk about sexual health, but many parents urge their daughters to keep their Khmer social status,” he said, adding this meant virginity.
Of course, not all young people are thinking about love today.
Bun Sovantha, 17, a grade 11 student at Boeung Trabek high school in Phnom Penh, said he will stay home because he has no girlfriend and “no one else would be at school”.
The young couples he knows will be found hanging out in parks, shopping centres and fun parks, he said.