As all economic sectors of Cambodia reopen, other important aspects of life, including traditional weddings, can resume in earnest, much to the relief of the many business owners and their employees who rely on these festive occasions for their livelihoods.
On November 12, Prime Minister Hun Sen announced that wedding receptions were once again permitted with no limit on the number of guests if the event was held in a large enough space, though each table should have a maximum of seven people seated at it.
Touch Ratha, the manager of Seng Hok Heng food catering service, said his business was back in action immediately following Hun Sen’s decision, though he has reduced his workforce by 50 to 60 per cent compared to the pre-pandemic era.
Ratha said that besides weddings, he is also accepting bookings for parties at customers' homes.
“I work in mobile food service so I was happy to hear the news the same as everyone else working in this industry. Now the money will start flowing again and the public will also be happy because all Khmer people love big weddings. We need them.
“I think there will be more parties held now than ever before because normally at the end of the year you’ve got annual parties, staff parties and award ceremonies. But now there are also weddings that were postponed and I think people in general will be excited to go to such events again. We’re getting one call after another for November, and December should be even busier,” he said.
Ek Nam Huon, the owner of a decorating business in Takeo province’s Bati district, said his business had been hit hard by the cancellation of most events due to the pandemic but they managed to survive and are now ready to return to normal operations.
“I am so glad that our business has come back and I can earn money to support my family again,” he said.
The pandemic was an even bigger disaster for people running event-related services in Phnom Penh who also needed to continue to pay rent on retail, office or venue space. This was true for Kim Leng, another interior decorator. She said that during the pandemic she had to pay her full rental fees just like her contract stipulated.
“From March to July, I did not earn a single riel due to the impacts of Covid-19. Even more troublesome for us was our debt because we weren’t earning any money to make loan payments to the bank. The only solution was to borrow more money from other people to cover these expenses.
"The government told banks to give debtors loan forebearance or to reduce their monthly payments, but they wouldn’t help us. Instead, they insisted that we needed to keep making full payments,” he said.
She said that after Hun Sen allowed weddings to resume, she has had just a few customers, possibly because people may still fear the coronavirus, but she is glad about the reopening and hopes that her business will return to normal soon.
Un Sokrom, the chief of Dangkor district’s Kong Noy commune, said he had given permits to two couples to get married so far but he was capping the number of guests at 200 for each wedding.
“The couples who are organising the wedding parties have to follow Covid-19 preventive measures like the three dos and three don'ts and the guests need to scan the "Stop Covid" QR Code and use sanitisers before entry, wear masks, and the party must be held in a large space,” he said.
He also emphasised that all guests must show their vaccination cards and all requests for parties need to be submitted at least 10 days ahead of time to get approval.
Ro Kimlong and Seav Kuoy Y