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Arrested Siem Reap foreigners failed to heed police warning to shut down parties

Siem Reap’s Pub Street, pictured in 2014. Michael Coghlan
Siem Reap’s Pub Street, pictured in 2014. Michael Coghlan

Arrested Siem Reap foreigners failed to heed police warning to shut down parties

The governor of Siem Reap town said yesterday that a group of 10 foreigners charged with “producing pornography” last week had been arrested because they allegedly ignored a previous warning to put a stop to their parties, adding, point blank, that the group “did not produce pornographic pictures”.

In a case that has drawn intense interest from foreign media outlets, the “Let’s Get Wet” group had organised a party in the town’s Svay Dangkum commune when a group of 30 anti-human trafficking officers raided it and arrested them last Thursday. After the raid they were provisionally charged for production of pornography, though officials have so far declined to offer any details of the alleged offence.

Siem Reap Governor So Platong said in an interview yesterday that he did not remember the name of the group that had been warned after organising a pub crawl two weeks ago – there are multiple such tours on offer in the tourist hotspot – but said that they had been asked to stop the event at Pub Street. He went on to claim that the same organisers were responsible for the party last Thursday, where the 10 were arrested.

“They advertised about their activities in the form of leaflets,” he said, adding no pornographic material had been found at either event. “They did not produce pornographic pictures.”

Photos released by the National Police alongside a photo of the 10 suspects allegedly showing “pornographic dancing” featured full-clothed patrons wearing shirts with the logo of the “Siem Reap Pub Crawl”, another tour group.

An immigration police officer, speaking on condition of anonymity, said he understood that Let’s Get Wet and the pub crawl group that was warned two weeks ago – whose name he did not remember – both congregated at Angkor What? Bar at the start of their respective parties, but stressed that they were separate entities.

The 10 suspects’ lawyer, Sourng Sophea, also said that the group warned two weeks ago was different from Let’s Get Wet. He noted that two of his clients had worked for the other group in the past, but said they had promised to stop working there following the warning.

He added that the suspects had been given drug tests, which they cleared yesterday, and were considering requesting bail, though they would not be able to leave the country.

Hugo Coulter, an Australian tourist who was at last week’s party, said attendees were only drinking, dancing and wearing bathing suits, and there was no nudity or drugs.

“They said this was against Cambodian culture and that ‘you can’t do this’,” he said.

He added that around 80 tourists were separated from the 10 detainees and held at the villa where the party was held for four hours before being taken to the police station to receive a lecture on Khmer traditions.

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