No Encore For Disabled Musicians

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A group of disabled musicians sing on the street in Phnom Penh to get donations despite a City Hall ban on their performances. Supplied

Phnom Penh City Hall has assured disabled musicians who busk on the capital’s streets that they will “gently educate” them not to do so to maintain the city’s dignity and beauty, despite providing no alternative for them to earn a living.
 
The Phnom Penh Municipality faced outrage in February when it announced it would ban the practice. Since then City Hall has made several attempts to halt street performers by confiscating their speakers and equipment, yet the music has continued unabated.
 
City Hall’s chief of administration Mean Chanyada attempted to placate reporters by announcing a new approach to curb the practice by educating citizens on why they should not ply their trade.
 
“There is nothing serious. We are not going to confiscate their musical instruments,” he said.
 
“We educate them only. Why does the press seem to pay attention to that? Don’t worry. It is going to be fine.”
 
However, he added that City Hall would make sure singers would be “cleared from the street” if they did not listen to authorities, without elaborating on what would happen to them, referring follow up questions to the Ministry of Social Affairs, whose spokesman was unavailable to comment.  
 
Governance and social analyst San Chey took to Facebook and said the government must make sure that singers have a viable source of income if they will not be allowed to perform.
 
Up to 10 disabled performance groups, including the “Disabled Music Band,” could be jobless again under City Hall’s recent push.
 
In early June, the Ministry of Social Affairs used television and radio stations as well as NGOs and promised to find employment for the street performers, but according to blind musician Pov Thearith, their efforts have yielded no results.
 
“We have been waiting for that opportunity for so long and nothing happens. So we need to go out and play music to earn money. If we don’t, we are going to die,” he said.
 
He added that his musical instruments had been seized by authorities, only to be given back a week later.
 
When asked if he would listen to City Hall and stop performing, he replied: “As long as I get an alternative job, I will.”

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