As election data trickled in on Sunday evening and a fear set in borne of uncertainty and a beefed-up police presence, demand for basic commodities surged, food prices briefly rose, and some banks saw an expected rise in withdrawals.
Sales of rice jumped from their normal volume on Sunday, shop owners said yesterday, and prices of noodles doubled amid an election climate that drove up costs of food staples.
Hang Savon, the owner of a rice shop in Phnom Penh, said yesterday that on Sunday evening he had many customers asking for rice and even received phone calls asking for him to quote prices, apparently out of fear that costs had spiked.
“Many people looked more rushed than normal when it came to buying rice,” he said, adding that in two hours, he sold one tonne.
Like others interviewed yesterday, he said a calmer mood prevailed after preliminary election results came in late on Sunday and that prices and volume started to stabilise yesterday.
Initial numbers showed that the opposition Cambodia National Rescue Party took home 55 seats out of the 123 up for grabs in the National Assembly; the remaining 68 were swept up by the ruling Cambodian People’s Party in an election marred by allegations of names deleted from voter lists and other forms of disenfranchisement.
Though the opposition nearly doubled its share of seats, party leaders have rejected the figures and called for an investigation.
Logisitics, not fear alone, caused increased demand, as shop owners had not returned from voting in the provinces yet and the availability of goods was not as widespread.
“There will be more sellers and buyers tomorrow because many will arrive in Phnom Penh this evening,” said Som Chhay, the owner of a dried fish shop at O’Russey market.
As reports of small-scale rioting and increased security poured in, lines formed at ACLEDA bank branches in the city on Sunday night, and some ATMs were emptied before being refilled yesterday.
The panic spread, and a handful of customers lined up were only doing so because they saw others taking money out and grew worried.
Leang Seangly, a 51-year-old businessman who sells construction material, said he withdrew $1,000 on Sunday from an ACLEDA ATM in Por Sen Chey district.
“I came to withdraw money following them because I see they are surprised and withdrew money, because we don’t know the situation,” he said.
ANZ Royal Bank CEO Grant Knuckey said that branches did see increased withdrawals over the weekend, but that there weren’t significant differences on Saturday and Sunday.
“This morning, we have been trading as normal at all of our branches, and have replenished ATM cash where necessary,” he said.
ADDITIONAL REPORTING BY RANN REUY