In a bid to restrict anti-social behaviour and crack down on misbehaving youths, Kampong Speu provincial authorities have instructed guesthouse owners not to rent rooms to guests under the age of 18.

The September 26 announcement has drawn some criticism from civil society organisations, who are concerned a blanket ban may adversely affect innocent members of the Kingdom’s youth.

Kampong Speu provincial governor Vei Samnang explained that the administration has set out a number of guidelines to maintain security and public order.

“Hotels, guesthouses, or rental properties may not be used to provide shelter or opportunities to the perpetrators of sexual exploitation or trafficking in women or children, as well as criminals who smuggle, deal or use drugs,” he said.

He asked the owners and managers of all such properties who suspect any such activities are taking place to report them immediately.

Samnang also reminded them of the legal requirement to report the presence of any foreign guests, using the Foreigner Presence in Cambodia (FPCS) system.

“In addition, the owners of hotels, guesthouses and rental properties must not allow guests under 18 to stay, unless they are with family members,” he said.

He added that copies of passports or other photo ID must be taken from all guests, so they can easily be identified. In the case of an incident occurring, the information must be provided to the authorities.

Yang Kim Eng, president of the People’s Centre for Development and Peace, said on September 27 that the measures being taken by the provincial authorities is understandable, but believed the age limit needed to be applied with some caveats, such as an exception for students who are studying far from home.

He believed the ban should only be applied to students who behave in an anti-social way, so as not to affect law-abiding young people.

“While some children may be bad, most are good. I believe the authorities need to devise means of determining which young people are well-intentioned and which are troublemakers,” he said.

He added that the authorities need to be mindful of balancing the need to protect public order with people’s individual freedoms.

“It is important to deploy forces in high crime risk areas, but it is equally important not to compromise the rights and freedoms of citizens,” he explained.