Asean Summit: Swap Hanging Clothes for Cambodian Flags, Authorities Urge

Police stand by outside the Phnom Penh Hotel on November 9, 2022. (Danielle Keeton-Olsen/VOD)
Police stand by outside the Phnom Penh Hotel on November 9, 2022. (Danielle Keeton-Olsen/VOD)
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Phnom Penh is gearing up for the Asean Summit with fresh restrictions: street sellers downsizing stalls, residents taking down clotheslines, streets blocked around major hotels and nightclubs closed.

Following up on their traffic management plan, city authorities have ordered the closure of businesses that may pose a “risk” and urged residents to fly Cambodian flags from their homes. Residents, meanwhile, spoke of disruptions to their businesses but welcomed the cleaning up of the city.

Phnom Penh governor Khuong Sreng told lower level officials that all businesses on main routes, especially Russian Federation Blvd., would be closed, including gas stations and construction sites, according to a post on Monday.

The governor also asked all 14 districts to urge “any business locations that may pose a risk in their locality,” such as KTVs, nightclubs and motorbike and car parking on the street, to close during the Asean Summit from Thursday through Sunday.

Hotel and guesthouse owners will be required to check guests’ identification daily and provide a list of occupants to local authorities. Gatherings at guesthouses would also be banned.

On the water, fish farms, tourist boats and fishing boats are prohibited to prevent “disrupting order” during the summit. 

Sreng also urged residents and businesses to keep their houses clean and fly Cambodian flags.

The Chamkarmon district administration added that authorities in its five communes should hold daily “inspections of explosive weapons” and check on residents of hotels, guesthouses and rented rooms.

The commune officials should instruct their residents not to hang clothes to dry in front of their houses, and instead encourage them to hang the national flag as decoration, it said in a social media post.

The post also said security would be heightened near the Sofitel Hotel — which is hosting the Asean Business Summit on Wednesday and Thursday — and that all clubs around the Russian Embassy and gas stations on Norodom Blvd. would be closed.

Barricades and Street Sellers

Near the Asean Summit venue on Wednesday afternoon, workers were pruning flower beds in the Bayon roundabout, while men sprayed water along Tonle Sap street leading to Sokha Hotel.

Rows of tanks and police trucks were parked along the street, and two gated, empty lots north of the Sokha Hotel served as a parking lot packed with dozens of polished ambulances, police trucks and tanks stamped with BHQ — the initials for Prime Minister Hun Sen’s Bodyguard Unit, headed by the U.S.-sanctioned general Hing Bun Heang. 

Two helicopters were spotted flying in circles from the city center after 2 p.m.

Authorities have already set up watch around some hotel properties in the capital: Reporters saw guards and barricades blocking Street 178 in front of the Hyatt Regency as well as around Raffles Hotel and Vattanac Tower, which houses the Rosewood Hotel.

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Seng Sophoan, a 53-year-old drinks seller on Sothearos Blvd, on November 9, 2022. (Danielle Keeton-Olsen/VOD)
Seng Sophoan, a 53-year-old drinks seller on Sothearos Blvd, on November 9, 2022. (Danielle Keeton-Olsen/VOD)

Bong Ny, 54, who sells cigarettes and SIM cards on the corner of Sihanouk Blvd. and St. 9, said she was told to move from her usual spot on the corner to a sidewalk further down St. 9.

She had been told to move since October 30, and to reduce her wares down to a red basket lined with cigarette packets.

Ny said the short closure hit her hard: She has five kids and needs about $10-$12.5 a day for them. “Before I would give them 5,000 riel per day [spending money], but now I only give them 2,000 riel,” she said, or about $1.25 and $0.5.

Street cleaners were out on Sothearos Blvd. late in the evening and at dawn, said Seng Sophoan, a 53-year-old vendor selling drinks from a cart decked with leafy plants.

“I’m happy to see the city clean like this,” she said. “If they keep this up every day, that would be great.”

Sophoan said she had been warned not to sell this week ahead of the Asean Summit, but she came out to sit in front of the Supreme Court anyway. She was prepared to run when the convoys came, she said.

“Even if they inform us, we’ll still come to sell. We just know we need to sell to get money for rent,” she said. Sophoan can earn 100,000 riel per day, or about $25, at Wat Botum park, and when there are events at the park the revenue can double. But after taking out costs, she struggles to pay her $65 per month rent in Kandal province’s Kandal Stung district, she said.

“When I see them [guards], I will keep running, but if they really chase you sometimes you can’t escape them.”

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