Business owners on Street 308, home to Bassac Lane, in Phnom Penh are up in arms because they feel they are being targeted by a fake news gang claiming to be from the media and asking for money, otherwise, they would be made part of a story accusing them of flouting restriction rules.
The manager of one business in the well-known hospitality area who didn’t wish to be mentioned told Khmer Times yesterday: “If business wasn’t hard enough amid the lockdown restrictions and alcohol ban, it is even worse now as we are being plagued by a gang of extortionists asking for money in exchange for not being mentioned in their ‘newspaper’ or have a bad review written about us.
“I have refused several attempts to extort money from us and each time they have left, threatening to call the police, mention us in a paper or write a bad review on us. We are not the only business on the street to be a victim of this,” he said.
“They also shout at passers-by that our bars are girly bars and rent women to men.
“The restrictions have really affected us as a business. With the alcohol ban our revenue is down 60 percent from normal. Now this other problem adds to the difficult times.”
Another business also on Street 308 said: “They always come and try to ask for money and lie by saying we sell alcohol. When we refuse they go on Facebook live to tell their watchers about how we have more than 15 customers [the legal limit] and sell alcohol. This is simply not the case.”
This has supposedly happened over the past two weekends on both nights with the gang asking for anything from $10 to crates of beer in exchange for them not posting false information on social media.
This comes as a few days after the government decided to extend the lockdown restrictions for another 14 days, in an already struggling hospitality business.
“Surely this must feel like ‘kicking a business when they are down’ kind of thing, with many bars and restaurants having to close their doors forever through not being able to afford rent and bills because of lack of customers and not being able to sell alcohol for months,” said one observer.
However, other hospitality businesses are opening in the area in the expectation that business will soon be back to its previous thriving well-being.
Another bar owner in Daun Penh said he hasn’t been approached by fake reporters so it seems like this is a problem perhaps specifically targeting Tonle Bassac.
This article was first published in Khmer Times. All contents and images are copyright to their respective owners and sources.