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Cambodian City Targets Chinese Businesses for Misspelled Signs

A Chinese restaurant with Khmer sign serves Sichuan cuisine to foreign and local tourists in Sihanoukville, Cambodia, April 08, 2018. (Poch Reasey/VOA Khmer)

The move also comes amid rising anti-Chinese sentiment in Cambodia following a spike in Chinese immigration.

Authorities in Sihanoukville have removed signs from Chinese-owned businesses in the city that misspelled Khmer words.

Business owners in the city were told to remove “improper” signs in March. The move also comes amid rising anti-Chinese sentiment in Cambodia following a spike in Chinese immigration.

The crackdown also came after photos of the signs went viral on social media platforms in the past few days.

Lim Pheaktrey, a Sihanoukville environment official, said the authorities had removed some 200 signs from shops around the city, saying the business owners had not asked for permission to put up the signs, which violated regulations.

“Mostly, they did it themselves without asking for permission. If they had asked for permission, there would not be only Chinese language. Now following our province rules, if they want to put on shop signs, they have to go through the cultural office to check the wording or wait for instructions from that office.”

According to Pheaktrey, local business owners had been resorting to using Google Translate as they did not speak Khmer.

He added that no legal action had yet been taken against any of the business owners, as they had not broken the law.

“There is no law to fine them but we can educate them, tell them to ask for permission to put up the shop signs, instruct them to have a proper translator who can write correct Khmer words. Moreover, we told them to put the Khmer language twice as big as the Chinese language or other foreign languages.”

In the order in March, authorities instructed businesses that Khmer must be included on all signs with the characters being twice as large as English or other foreign languages.

San Chey, country director of NGO Affiliated Network for Social Accountability, said the authorities should take stronger action against those found to be breaking the rules.

“Cambodian authorities, especially the Sihanoukville court, should use court mechanisms for these offenses. It is a big deal that Chinese people dare to have their shop signs saying ‘China’ in an independent, sovereign state. And if they do not take stronger action, it will be the same. It even can spread to the other provinces.”