City Hall has banned musicians from performing on Phnom Penh’s streets without written permission, saying the main reason is that they are interfering with pedestrian and vehicle traffic.
Phnom Penh Municipality spokesman Long Dimanche told Khmer Times that the ban followed complaints from drivers and pedestrians alike that some musicians took up entire sidewalks and even parts of streets to perform. Mr. Dimanche said the ban is also intended to help make the city more beautiful and orderly.
The street performances have been a mainstay of Phnom Penh for decades, and the ban will cut off a vital financial lifeline for many musicians who have nowhere else to perform. It took effect over the weekend, according to musicians interviewed by Khmer Times.
Just last week, Khmer Times profiled a group of blind musicians surviving off of the donations they get each day while performing along Monivong Blvd. Despite multiple requests to the municipal government by the group for a permanent place to perform, they said they have received no response.
The city will order all 12 districts of Phnom Penh to clear the streets of anyone performing music without a permit from City Hall.
Pov Thearith, a blind man who performs with a troupe along Monivong Blvd, said this will make life even harder for people with disabilities. “Without performing music, persons with disabilities whose lives depend on music will face troubling times,” he said.
The eight members of his group, all of whom are blind, say they do not know how they will survive without being able to perform for money on the streets. He said they had been ordered off the streets by police. “Police in Chamkar Mon district told us not to perform in their zone on Saturday,” Mr. Thearith said.
Mr. Dimanche said City Hall would take care of them. “We will find proper places for persons with disabilities to conduct humanitarian concerts,” he said, declining to identify where these concerts would take place. “If they ask the city to conduct the concerts, we will allow them in a designated place.”
When asked if he will seek a permit to perform, Mr. Thearith said he was wary of signing documents because his group is not officially registered group. “My team was just established with an agreement from friends, so we don’t have any legal documents,” he said.
The Ministry of Social Affairs, Veterans and Youth Rehabilitation announced its support last week for people with disabilities, saying it will provide 5,000 riel per day to help cover their living expenses and provide centers for them to stay in. Mr. Thearith said that while the money and centers are a nice gesture, they do not go far enough to ensure financial stability for him and his band members.