Reality Dawns as Sun Sets on Kazantip

SIHANOUKVILLE, Preah Sihanouk province – Plans to bring the raucous 10-day rave Kazantip to Cambodian shores were in tatters Wednesday as hundreds of Russian revelers showed up at the bridge leading to Koh Puos island to find the way blocked by a 2-meter-high metal barricade.

The afternoon began with optimism as groups of would-be festivalgoers—many of whom had already purchased “viZas” to enter the Kazantip “Republic”—arrived at the bridge in tuk-tuks and on motorbikes. Posters affixed to the barricade said the notoriously debauched music festival, which was scheduled to begin on Wednesday, had been postponed by a mere 24 hours, despite authorities saying on Tuesday that it had been “totally canceled.”

Police officers man the bridge to Koh Puos on Wednesday. (Joe Hofmann)
Police officers man the bridge to Koh Puos on Wednesday. (Joe Hofmann)

Oleg, a Russian national who was in the process of setting up a stall next to the barricade at about 2 p.m., was sure the event would still go ahead despite police repeatedly telling him the party was off.

“Yes, tomorrow it is open…this is Kazantip,” said Oleg, who declined to give his full name, pointing to the posters.

“This is not Woodstock, this is Kazantip. They are not same same. Woodstock is sex, drugs and rock ‘n’ roll; Kazantip is sex, drugs and electro,” he said.

About an hour later, the posters had been taken down and the mood had darkened.

While some viZa-holders accepted defeat and headed back to the town center to assess their options, others speculated about the possibility of secret replacement raves.

“I heard there may be two parties taking place nearby…they have to find another place,” said Nicola Cavali, an Italian tourist arrived in Sihanoukville last month.

Would-be festivalgoers congregate near a barricade blocking the bridge to Koh Puos on Wednesday. (Joe Hofmann)
Would-be festivalgoers congregate near a barricade blocking the bridge to Koh Puos on Wednesday. (Joe Hofmann)

As the afternoon wore on, the sun began to set on any last-ditch hopes that authorities would have a change of heart and let the festival—or some iteration of it—go ahead.

Denis Kozlov, a personal friend of the festival’s organizer, Nikita Marshunok, and an associate of fugitive Russian developer Sergei Polonsky—who lives on a private island off the coast—was allowed to visit Koh Puos in his SUV in the afternoon.

Returning to the mainland at about 4 p.m., Mr. Kozlov said Mr. Marshunok, after weeks of confidence that the government would ultimately let the festival take place, had finally given up hope.

“It will not happen anywhere, I just went there…police only allowed me to go there, everything is closed,” he said.

“I’ve talked to Nikita, he is my friend and he said the problem is that he didn’t follow the rules of the Cambodian people.”

Two tourists are sent back after attempting to cross the bridge to Sihanoukville's Koh Puos island on Wednesday. (Joe Hofmann)
Two tourists are sent back after attempting to cross the bridge to Sihanoukville’s Koh Puos island on Wednesday. (Joe Hofmann)

Provincial police chief Seang Kosal said his forces would remain steadfast in preventing the party, and wondered why its organizers had chosen Koh Puos in the first place.

“I want to inform you there is no change,” Mr. Kosal said of the provincial government’s decision to cancel the event after weeks of vacillating on whether it would be allowed.

“I just want to ask why they want to perform the concert in such a way?” he said. “Other people can perform concerts on Ochheuteal beach and in the theater, but why did they have to do it in such an isolated place?”

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