KaZantip in limbo

KaZantip
Workers attend to preparations for the kaZantip music festival in Sihanoukville on Thursday, February 5. Griff Tapper

KaZantip in limbo

One night before the embattled kaZantip music festival was due to kick off, eleven ticket vendors for the event were unaware if it was still going ahead on Tuesday, with one describing the situation as "unstable".

Local authorities meanwhile vowed to shut the event down unless it received government approval, following a string of controversies including a violent, allegedly gang related attack on the festival's official tour operator.

The planned 10-day rave, set to begin on Koh Puos island off Preah Sihanouk province, has been shrouded in conflicting reports since Tourism Minister Thong Khon last week backtracked on an earlier statement that the event would be cancelled.

At the time, Khon said the event had been given “in principle” backing by the ministries of tourism and culture and a letter had been sent to the government requesting final approval.

However, speaking on Tuesday, Ministry of Culture spokesman Heu Virak said the government was yet to respond.

Preah Sihanouk provincial governor Chhith Sakhon said without the government’s green light he’d be forced to shut the festival down.

“I have not got any letter” from the government, he said.

“If they hold it without permission, how can we allow it? It must be banned. If it is permitted, they can hold it any day. Foreigners cannot do anything they like in our territory.”

According to a message posted Sunday on a Facebook for Prime Minister Hun Sen, which has never been confirmed as official, the festival has been halted.

But the moderator of kazantip.com’s forum continued yesterday to insist the festival would go ahead.

Contacted yesterday afternoon, ticket sellers listed on the event’s website were unsure.

“We’re currently not selling tickets... maybe tomorrow, because the situation is unstable,” a ticket seller listed as Katya said.

“We’re not sure if the government will give the approval,” a seller listed as Valentin said.

KaZantip
A giant bamboo archway stands on the beach where the kaZantip music festival is set to take place. Griff Tapper

Asked if the festival was cancelled, kaZantip “Prime Minister” Artem Kharchenko said a response would be sent by the event’s PR team, but no such response had been received as of press time.

The festival was also rocked this week by extortion attempts by Russian “gangsters”, who allegedly attempted to shake down organisers for $45,000, and attacked tourists after also trying to shake down the official tour operator, Lotus Tours.

Lotus Tours general manager Vladimir Palancica, who was targeted by the group during an armed raid on their headquarters, said the attack, as well as doubts over approval, had seen him lose 700 bookings.

“Our company’s lost a lot of money,” he said, adding that Lotus Tours, which handles accommodation and transfers, only had 50 people still registered as attending.

Meanwhile, a second man injured in the attack on Lotus Tours has also filed a complaint with police, according to Men Vanny, Preah Sihanouk provincial director of minor crime office.

“He claimed that he was shot with a gun, but no shell casings were found,” he said.

Kol Phally, provincial deputy police chief, said the search for more suspects was ongoing.

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