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Blind Musicians Expect Falling Fortunes After Relocation


A blind musician plays his traditional Cambodian violin along the promenade at Angkor Wat in Siem Reap on Monday January 22,1996. (AP Photo/Richard Vogel)

A blind musician plays his traditional Cambodian violin along the promenade at Angkor Wat in Siem Reap on Monday January 22,1996. (AP Photo/Richard Vogel)

Some 200 disabled street musicians and singers agreed to stop performing on public roads in the capital following a meeting with City Hall in January.

Disabled musicians who perform on the streets of Phnom Penh were promised that after they were forced to relocate to new areas of the city they would not lose out.

But the musicians now say that they expect to make significantly less money from busking in the less prominent locations and have not yet received instruments they were promised by Prime Minister Hun Sen.

Some 200 disabled street musicians and singers agreed to stop performing on public roads in the capital following a meeting with City Hall in January.

Rath Vitou, a representative of the New Hope Band of Blind People, told VOA Khmer that only one new location - at the historic Wat Phnom in northern Phnom Penh - had so far been agreed with the authorities.

“City Hall promised us three locations, but during the first rehearsal they only provided one location,” he said. “So it’s difficult ... because there is only one location for five bands.”

He added that they were also short on instruments having not received the promised equipment from Hun Sen.

Em Chan Makara, social affairs spokesman, said that the bands would shortly receive the instruments as promised, worth more than $20,000 in total.

“First, we have to conduct a bidding process to purchase musical instruments, then we will order and the order will take about six weeks because they are not in Cambodia,” he said.

Over the past two years, numerous bands such as Vitou’s have been rounded up and forced to move off of Phnom Penh’s major thoroughfares.

Vitou said the band members had grown five-fold but they expected to earn the same amount of money as when they first began to perform on the streets.

“The share of the income will not be much. But there is nothing we can do. We have to accept the solution offered by the government,” he said.

Sarom Oudom, representative of the Cambodia Association of Disabled Musicians, shared Vitou’s concerns.

“Now the government has minimized our performances so there is only one location, at Wat Phnom, and you know what, we are only allowed to play three days a week,” he said.

However, Meth Meas Pheakdey, City Hall spokesman, told VOA Khmer that two other locations would be made available for the performers.

The city was considering Freedom Park as one possible location, he added.

Chan Makara suggested that the musicians could make a side income from performing at weddings.

When asked how City Hall would respond if the performers were unable to sustain themselves at the new locations and returned to the streets, he said the authorities “have not thought of that yet”.

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