Owners of balloon game concessions on Koh Pich are worried they will soon lose their livelihoods, after authorities announced new security measures to maintain public order on the island last week.
The announcement was posted on the Phnom Penh municipality website on April 12, after a meeting earlier in the month between authorities and representatives from Overseas Cambodia Investment Corporation, the private company that is developing the island.
Authorities will collaborate with the company to “re-examine the licences for operating businesses at Koh Pich city by suspending temporarily any unlicensed businesses and immediately shutting down all gambling, including balloon games,” the notice said.
But stall owners such as Loy Thearom, 38, say their game concessions are not a form of gambling and they have not been given official notice that their stalls will be shut down.
“What gambling is this? Customers buy darts to throw them at the balloons. If they win, we give them a prize. If they lose, sometimes we give them cakes or orange juice,” she said.
Stall owner, Yeay Svet, 62, has lived in her stall since she was evicted from Boeung Kak lake.
“I have heard I will be evicted again, and I don’t know where to go. I have borrowed three to four million riel ($750 to $1,000) of other people’s money and I have not settled the debt yet. What will I do?” she said.
The move is part of a larger suite of measures to strengthen security on Koh Pich, due to gang incidents and robberies, the city’s statement said.
Twenty-four-hour private security posts equipped with CCTV surveillance will be established at all main entry and exit points as part of the plan.
The balloon games are being shut down as a pre-emptive security measure, said City Hall spokesperson Long Dimanche.
“If we don’t take measures, it will be difficult. So we have to take action and both police and military police at all levels have to cooperate with OCIC that invests in Koh Pich,” he said.