Cambodia’s notorious adult-entertainment industry will soon be subjected to highter scruitiny and increased policing with the Council of Ministers on Friday passing a sub-decree aimed at cleaning up the seedier side of Cambodia’s nightlife.
Phay Siphan, spokesman for the Council of Ministers, said ministers agreed to pass a draft of the sub-decree last week. Entertainment business such as bars, nightclubs and KTV lounges that are unlicensed, or found to be involved in drug or human trafficing, gang-related activity or under-aged drinking practices will be targeted, he said.
“Now, we have a sub-degree to control the entertainment places. So we hope that it can eliminate a big number of any negative issues,” he said.
Siphan did not detail how authorities would utilise their new powers but said it was an important step in cleaning up the industy’s image.
“These negative activities can be impacting Cambodia’s tourism industry,” he said.
According figures from the Ministry of Tourism, there are 659 entertainment-related businesses throughout Cambodia, provinding more than 11,300 jobs. Of those businesses, nearly 180 are unlicensed.
“There is a small number of businesses that operate and create problems that then negatively affect our society such as exessive noise, attracting gangsters, encouraging students to not study, prostitution, or trading or consuming drugs,” a statement from the Council of Ministers relased Friday says.
Lay Heang, general manger of New Star KTV in Siem Reap, told the Post that enforcing the sub-decree and penalising illegal, unlicensed operations will benefit legitimate entertainment service busineseses.
“Having the laws better managed will help build a better image for the industry as a whole and ensure confidence in our customers,” he said.
Sreng Veasna, owner of Olympic Luxury Club, a disco and KTV lounge in Phnom Penh’s Chamkarmon district, also welcomed the Council of Ministers’ move.
He said law-breaking entertainment businesses harm the flow of customers for other businesses. But, in general, people who do allow such practices at their business, tend to be well connected.
“If we can eliminate the habit of intervention from the powerful people, it would be a great help,” he said.
“I always respect the law and will always go against those who establish places that may lead to runining the reputation of neighbouring businesses.”
But it will take more than the threat of new laws to improve things, said Ros Sopheap, executive director of Gender and Development in Cambodia. Sopheap called for more details as to how authorities will tackle illicit practices in entertainment venues, especially with regards to sex workers.
“Policy-makers just want to improve the reputation of the country,” she said. “But more laws are not necessarily the answer. Policy- and lawmakers need to consider the effect these laws will have on the lives of women in sex industry, and more widely the reasons women are forced into sex work in the first place.”