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Shops to close, limit hours

A sign outside the Piccola Italia Da Luigi restaurant in Phnom Penh.
A sign outside the Piccola Italia Da Luigi restaurant in Phnom Penh. Many restaurants and businesses in the capital and Siem Reap have posted similar notices. SCOTT HOWES

Shops to close, limit hours

Many restaurants, shops, supermarkets and tourist sites in Phnom Penh and Siem Reap will operate at a limited capacity or close entirely this Sunday as people line up at voting stations to elect a new government.

“We will close the whole day on the 28th,” Kong Vireak, director of the National Museum, said.

Businesses will also face staff shortages over the weekend and into early next week, as workers in factories, enterprises and institutions are allowed three days off starting July 27 to accommodate voters who need to travel, according to the Ministry of Labour.

Lucky supermarket, Cambodia’s biggest shopping retailer, will close all its stores across the country on the morning of July 28 to allow staff to vote, Satya Wuthy, space management supervisor, said yesterday.

The stores, however, will reopen at noon.

While restarateur Luu Meng, president of the Cambodia Hotel Association, said it is up to the business owners whether they want to shut, several small-scale restaurants, bars and cafes in Phnom Penh are deciding to close or open later in the day.

Blue Pumpkin, a popular bakery and ice cream shop, will close two of its branches, but the riverside store will remain open. Java Cafe on Sihanouk Boulevard will also shut up shop. Both businesses will resume full operations Monday.

Costa Coffee will remain open Sunday, but with a skeleton staff and service might be slower.

Thiebault Nicolet, manager of Van’s Restaurant, said the restaurant will be closed for lunch on Sunday and open again at 5pm, allowing employees to vote. Staff living farther away, such as in Siem Reap, are getting three days off.

He said he expects business to be more “quiet” in the evening, as people will prefer to stay close to their neighbourhood and avoid election-related traffic or blocked roads.

In January, the Australian Embassy and the United Nations advised their employees to stock up on emergency supplies of food and water ahead of the seven-day mourning period for King Father Norodom Sihanouk.

Asked whether customers had come to Lucky supermarket to buy supplies for the weekend, Wuthy, the supervisor, said it was the “same as usual”.

Despite the closures, Ang Kim Eang, president of the Cambodia Association of Travel Agents, said the weekend won’t have an impact on the tourism industry, which accounted for 12 per cent GDP last year.

“Yesterday, I was in Angkor Wat; it’s full of tourists,” he said, adding that none of the tourists would postpone their trip, because “they don’t care about the election”.

An official with the Ministry of Tourism said that he was unaware of any major sites closing down; the National Museum is overseen by the Ministry of Culture and Fine Arts.

Nightlife should be tamer too, as the government has banned the sale and consumption of alcohol by Cambodians and foreigners on the day of the election and the day before to prevent any interference, according to a directive signed this month by Prime Minister Hun Sen.

A similar ban adopted during the commune elections in 2012, however, was ignored in many parts of Phnom Penh and the provinces.

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