Cambodian Journalists Alliance Association

Denny Kwan’s hidden camera revelation sparks hotel privacy concerns

Cambodian actress Denny Kwan released a video clip on May 25 showing a dispute with a hotel manager in Preah Sihanouk province after she found a camera hidden in her room in October last year. CamboJA/ Pring Samrang
Cambodian actress Denny Kwan released a video clip on May 25 showing a dispute with a hotel manager in Preah Sihanouk province after she found a camera hidden in her room in October last year. CamboJA/ Pring Samrang

Preah Sihanouk province’s tourism authority has urged all hotels and guesthouses not to conceal hidden cameras in private rooms after actress Denny Kwan publicly revealed that the Gold Sea Hotel had been secretly filming her in her room last October.

Chuon Lyheang, better known as Denny Kwan, released a video clip on May 25 of a dispute with the hotel manager accusing the hotel of concealing a security camera in her room. Chea Nary, the hotel’s owner, maintained that the cameras were purely for safety reasons. She was later arrested and remains in prison.

The same day, Denny Kwan posted another message on Facebook demanding justice and claiming the compensation of $10,000 she had been offered for her ordeal was not enough.

“I slept at the Gold Sea Hotel in Kampong Som [Preah Sihanouk province], the owner of the hotel hid the camera in my room, [and] not only my room, but all the rooms in the hotel,” she said. “I don’t care, because I am just waiting to receive a good resolution from the hotel owner, but the results are unfair to me. $10,000 in compensation seems to despise my honor as a Cambodian woman and I am in so much pain. I cannot accept it, it is very unfair.”

Kwan also posted a Facebook live video on Wednesday saying that she had received messages from many former guests of the hotel  telling her they also wanted to file a complaint against the hotel’s owner. She added that she had not yet received the compensation, and pledged to donate any money she received to humanitarian activity.

Preah Sihanouk’s provincial tourism department director Taing Socheat Kroesna said that any hotel or guesthouse putting security cameras in hotel rooms would face criminal charges and have their hotels closed.

“We will disseminate this case to other hotels to avoid this happening again,” he said.

Socheat Kroesna, who meets with the coastal province’s hotel and guesthouse owners twice a year to disseminate rules around tourist accommodation, maintained that cases like this were rare. He stressed that the Gold Sea Hotel, which had only been open for a few months before the incident, was the only hotel he had seen that had done this.

“They can put security cameras only in the entrance [of the hotel or guesthouse] and around the area, but they cannot put them in the room,” he said. “So it is illegal when they put it in the room.” The Gold Sea Hotel has been closed since October 2020.

Socheat Kroesna added that Preah Sihanouk province had more than 80 hotels, but about 70 percent of hotels had been closed during COVID-19 pandemic. Of the province’s 200-odd guesthouses, more than 100 were now closed.

Preah Sihanouk province police chief  Chuon Narin said that police had arrested Nary in Kandal province and sent her to the provincial court on October 28 2020. He said that the investigation had only found one person involved with the case.

Narin said that police officials can inspect any place that has an agreement with the provincial administration authority and provincial prosecutor to lead and coordinate the procedure.

“We cannot just go to check and inspect any place without a complaint from someone,” he said. “If any locations embed a camera to monitor any individuals without their permission, we will implement [a search] based on that.”

Sreng Vanly, Preah Sihanouk provincial coordinator of human rights group Licadho, said that embedding security cameras in hotel rooms was an infringement on people’s right to privacy.

“It is an abuse of privacy rights and affects the individual’s reputation,” Vanly said. “Please, owners of hotels and guesthouses, do not put cameras in hotels like this, because it is not correct … when [guests] find cameras in their hotel rooms, those hotels will lose credit and international and national guests will not dare to stay at those hotels.”

Vanly said that embedding security cameras in hotel rooms showed a bad intention to record guests’ private activities.

“If the manager or hotel staff  knew that it was illegal and they did not report it to police officials, they conspired with the suspect, so they are also guilty,” he said.

Cheap Sotheary, provincial coordinator of human rights group Adhoc, echoed Vanly’s sentiments — though she added that this was her first time hearing about the case.

“It has a big impact on tourists, and they will not dare to stay at that hotel,” she said.

Preah Sihanouk provincial court spokesman Ly Chandara confirmed on Thursday that Chea Nary, 48, was convicted in two separate cases. The first, which saw Chea Nary sentenced to four months in jail in December 2020, was for attempting to infringe on a person’s dignity by photographing them in a private place without their consent. The second, in which she was sentenced in February 2021 to five months in jail and fined 200,000 riel [about $50], was for taking pictures of an individual in a private place without their agreement and producing pornography.

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