Lonely Planet Writer

Siem Reap targets Pub Street and street vendors in a city-wide clean up

After a day of exploring the stunning Angkor Wat temple complex and standing in awe at the incredible testament to Khmer culture, many backpackers choose to sample the local food from street vendors or down beers in Siem Reap’s famous Pub Street. Now new regulations may change that.

Tourists walk past shops, restaurant and bars at night on Pub Street in downtown Siem Reap, Cambodia, Asia. Siem Reap is the capital city of the Siem Reap Province. Pub Street is a famous destination for lively nightlife for tourist and travellers as it restaurants and bars stay open late
Pub Street may be getting a makeover. Photo by Andrew Aitchison.

The Pub Street strip is popular with tourists and is Cambodia’s answer to Bangkok’s (in)famous Koh Sang Road. It’s pedestrianised after 5pm every night, making it easy for people to wander between the cheap bars, food outlets and neon lighting. However, new guidelines from Bun Song, the governor of Siem Reap, means that a major clean-up could be on the way.

In July, guidelines were issued and now businesses and individuals have until October to implement them or face the threat of legal action. Among the improvements singled out are the removal of illegal signs, street vendors, electrical wires and and illegal parking spots.

“These actions have seriously impacted public order,” Bun Song said. “They have caused a loss of beauty, increased road traffic, eliminated sidewalks, caused accidents, and inhibited the implementation of road traffic laws.” Locals have reported that authorities have been moving street vendors in recent days, in a move reminiscent of Bangkok’s ill-fated and controversial attempt to clamp down on street food vendors.

Food vendors on the streets of Siem Reap
The Old Market, Siem Reap. Image by Hong Wu

Pub Street is just one part of Siem Reap that will be under the spotlight by the government. Earlier this week, Tourism Minister Thong Kon outlined seven areas they wish to see improved in the city before nominating it for the 2018 Asean Clean Tourist City Contest, which is in its inaugural year.

In addition to better public order on Pub Street, the government wants to see more public toilets near popular tourist zones, green and pedestrian areas, as well as more efficient waste management system. Orders have also been issued to street vendors to remove any stalls that are on footpaths or in pedestrian zones.

Cambodia’s tourism numbers broke the five million mark in 2016 and authorities hope being part – and potentially the winner – of the new contest will bolster their reputation even further. However, some local residents expressed concern on the impact of potentially shutting down street vendors and their source of income.