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Logo of Phnom Penh Post newspaper Phnom Penh Post - Taxes and capital obstruct small business owners

Taxes and capital obstruct small business owners

The exclamations of dismay that come from small-business people in Cambodia when someone tries to take a picture of their shop are to be expected, as they believe the photo will be used to make them pay taxes they cannot afford, but that doesn’t mean they aren’t working hard.

Kim Srun, has been running a small grocery shop on street 2002 since 1991, when he and his family decided to move to Phnom Penh.

He was faced with the immediate challenge of not having enough capital to begin his business. To overcome the obstacle he borrowed some money from friends and relatives, and the rest from a micro-finance company.

“It took three years to pay back all the money,” he said.

“I have seen my next door neighbours begin a similar business, but they were not successful,” said Kim, who is not copacetic with his accomplishment, but simply glad because he has managed his business well with the assistance of his family.

Kim has two children, a girl, 16, and a boy, 10.

“I want my children to get high-level education,” he said. “The boy is more lazy than his sister, that’s why I force him to study every day.”

Although he and his wife are busy with the shop, they always encourage their children to work hard on their studies and Kim describes his childhood as one full of insecurity when it came to studying, because there were always bombs being dropped, as a result he saved to study and wrote five subjects in one book.

“My boy writes on one or two pages of the book, throws it away, and asks for a new one. He’s never aware of the hard time I used to overcome,” he continued.

Kim only asks his children to help him in a grocery shop two hours a day when there are many customers. The rest of the time, he requires them to study.

“Customers are increasing and my income seems to be stable,” Kim said, but most customers want to purchase goods on credit.

The liability of customers not paying what they owe is tough for Kim because his capital isn’t increasing.

But his expenses are, making business arduous at the best of times.

“The whole point is that the business person has to be serious with these kinds of customers and keep asking them until they pay everything back,” he advised.

Small, family run grocery shops are very competitive as Kim can attest. “I have fought with my neighbours, but it was mere shenanigans, nothing serious,” who own a similar shop next to his own. He and the shop’s owner do not get along.

“I sell things fairly but they do not even understand me,” Kim said. “We should know which shop that customers prefer to come to and buy things in order to provide better service to them if everyone is to be profitable.”

In the future Kim said he wants to enlarge his business by moving to a bigger place.

“I’m not sure yet.” He continued, “But I really want to increase goods; the thing is I am cannot afford the move yet.”

To contact the reporter on this story: Meas Chansatya at



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