Logo of Phnom Penh Post newspaper Phnom Penh Post - 'Educational' porn cinema stays open

'Educational' porn cinema stays open

'Educational' porn cinema stays open

The country's only cinema dedicated to showing pornographic films has been given

the go ahead by district officials to continue in business despite an order from

the Ministry of Culture and Fine Arts (MoCFA) that it shut.

The dilapidated and musty Bayon Cinema, Phnom Penh's second largest, was told to

close its doors after the ministry discovered that soft porn is the theater's main

attraction.

The cinema building is owned by the district branch of the ruling Cambodian People's

Party (CPP). Deputy leader of the party, Prime Minister Hun Sen, has over the years

outlawed all manner of vice, such as short skirts on Khmer television. Most recently

Hun Sen banned karaoke parlors across the country as they were deemed to be endangering

the country's morality.

Khim Sarith, head of MoCFA's inter-ministerial committee for cracking down on illegal

film and video, last week ordered the municipal culture office to close the Bayon

with immediate effect.

"These movies are illegal," said Sarith. "When the young people see

them, they want to test out what they have seen. If we can curb this problem, our

society will become a solid and strong unit."

He said the Bayon's pornographic fare, which is screened without the necessary approval

from MoCFA, might account for the increase in the rape of young girls. The link between

pornography and sex crimes has been suggested in the West for several years.

"Watching pornographic films will encourage the audience, especially the young,

to cause crimes," said Sarith. "That will cause a decline in social morality."

However, Daun Penh district chief, Suon Rindy, told the Post the leaseholder of the

cinema building, which he said is owned by the local branch of the CPP, would have

the license renewed for another year. He said there had been no problems with the

films and denied any knowledge of an order to close from the ministry.

"These films don't seriously affect people," he said. "I will only

revoke the contract if the operator decides not to take responsibility for them."

Bayon's only transgression, said Rindy, was a single hoarding that was painted in

too racy a manner. The owner addressed that problem. He would not say how much money

the local CPP branch charged in rent, but confirmed the money would go to the Daun

Penh district account of the party.

The Bayon Cinema, whose three year lease expires May 10, has been offering blue movies

to its clientele since 1990. Back then, said Sarith, he would crack down on such

establishments himself.

These days, he said, it requires the cooperation of the municipality whom he blamed

for dragging its feet in this case. He said several leaseholders had come and gone

since then and he did not know who was now running the cinema.

"To arrest film operators [in the early 1990s] was not easy," he said,

of an earlier crackdown. "The projectionists had several VCRs and simply changed

films as soon as our team arrived."

A staff member at Bayon said that although the original films - which come from

Hong Kong, the United States and Japan - were pornographic, the sex footage was cut

out and the films dubbed into Khmer and turned into romantic movies that had educational

merit.

When asked why the Bayon did not show Chinese martial arts movies or Hollywood action

films, the staffer said no one would pay to see them "because the people watch

those films free on TV and at coffee shops".

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