The Ministry of Tourism is cracking down on businesses in Preah Sihanouk province that display signage that fails to meet ministry guidelines.
Towards the end of last year, there was a Facebook backlash against businesses that had put up signs only in Chinese and without Khmer script, but the province’s Governor Y Sokleng said only a handful out of thousands of signs have been incorrectly made and called for perspective on the matter.
The ministry has observed that some businesses in the province had installed their signage incorrectly based on the directive on business banners, according to an announcement signed by Minister of Tourism Thong Khon on Tuesday.
The announcement said business signs needed to have words in Khmer on the top with foreign lettering below in a font half the size of the Khmer script.
It urged the Preah Sihanouk provincial administration to prepare for separate instructions on the size, type and colour of the alphabet used to ensure banners met aesthetic standards.
Preah Sihanouk provincial tourism department director Taing Sochet Kresna, said business signage in the province were classified into two types – tourism banners and those for other sectors.
He said currently signs for tourism businesses, now under the management of his department, were displayed in 905 locations, with five per cent found to have not met guidelines.
These he said were small businesses that opened without permission from the department.
“The ministry and provincial administration are to punish those who do not meet [standards] because we have plenty of records of such cases."
“Now the ministry will [clamp down on transgressors] because the instruction has been issued twice already. The department will inspect [businesses] and this year we will be tough on the following of the guidelines."
“Tourism businesses without a licence will face a fine of between two and 20 million riel [$500-$5,000]. We informed people of this law three to four times per year."
“We have also twice directly instructed [business owners] and called them to the department for final instruction. If they do not come, they will face a fine and then their business will be suspended and they will need to ask for legal permission before they can reopen it,” Sochet Kresna said.
Hotels, guesthouses, restaurants, massage and karaoke parlours, and tourist transport operations, he said, are considered tourism businesses.
In late 2018, Preah Sihanouk provincial authorities were criticised after Facebook users posted pictures of shops and hotels run by Chinese people displaying signs in Chinese and without Khmer script.
However, provincial officials said they had not found many cases and considered it a minor matter. Facebook users, they said, should not post such images in case it led to the demonising of one group of people and damaged national interests.
Sokleng, the Sihanoukville town governor, told The Post on Thursday that there were only four or five out of thousands banners that did not meet guidelines and these were posted on Facebook.
He said such posts on social media confused the public in order to discredit the authorities.
“As I have said, thousands of banners have been installed and only a dozen of them are incorrect. Some matters are small and they should not be broadcast [on social media]."
“The interests of the nation and people are the important thing. We should broadcast positive things to attract more investors and tourists to come to our country because this is beneficial."
“If one small matter is blown up out of proportion to cause hatred against other people, it is not beneficial,” he said.
According to Sokleng, the offending banners were made in the home country of business owners and brought to Cambodia.
However, he claimed the problem no longer existed as provincial authorities regularly inspected businesses, taking immediate measures against those that failed to meet guidelines.