PHNOM PENH, (Khmer Times) — The right of expression at Freedom Park doesn’t hurt small businesses, according to Mr. Real Camerin, of the Cambodia National Rescue Party (CNRP). “The right of expression was enshrined in our constitution and demonstration legislation permits all Cambodian people these rights, but now these laws are still only on paper,” he said.
“When we demonstrate at Freedom Park, it doesn’t affect small businessmen around here. If some businessmen want to demonstrate with our party, this is their right,” said Mr. Camerin.
Nine young women, who are youth members of the CNRP, stood with Mr. Camerin to support the right of expression. Ms. Tep Sorsina said, “We want the Phnom Penh Governor to remove this blockade quickly. It is also our objective to claim justice and freedom for the Cambodian women who were injured when they demonstrated at Veng Sreng Street.”
Mr. Camerin said, “If the Cambodian government creates and respects the law, it doesn’t matter about the effect on businessmen around here. They understand clearly that Freedom Park is a place for people to rally and exercise their right to express themselves.”
Feedback from the local business community however, is mixed. Commenting on the ban’s effect on business, the cashier at the Seven Bright Restaurant reported that they had actually seen an increase in revenue during the demonstrations.
“Since the ban, every day just seems a normal day. In the morning, there are only a few people who go to our restaurant to eat, but in the evening, more people are having their dinner. Every time there is a demonstration or rally however, supporters gather and we have many customers. Of course we are benefiting from the larger turnout,” she said.
A 42-year-old restaurant owner, Mr. Chakval, related a similar experience. “Normally, I operate my restaurant between 6am and 2pm, but during demonstration days, I prolong the time until late evening when all people leave the park,” he said.
“On average, I get about 600,000 Riel ($150) per day, but it increases to more than 1,000,000 Riel on demonstration days. Since the ban, most of our customers are policemen and some students,” said Mr. Chakval.
However, not everyone is pleased with the effect of demonstrations on their businesses. Ms. Ly Pisey, who works as a representative from CamEd Business School, observes that business has slowed since the ban.
In addition, souvenir seller, Ms. Dalin Chin, said that rallies and demonstrations cause a dip in her income. “Our business would be down by at least 50 to 80 percent whenever something like that happens, because no one wants to come into the place aside from the demonstrators.”
“Traffic is also a nightmare on that day and many roads are closed, so how are people going to come to buy in our store?” she said.