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Are mobile businesses a thing of the past?


Bread! Bread! Hot sweet bread! Hot dry pork bread! Hot Bayon Bread,” the microphone blasts out every morning from the vendor-on-wheels. Some vendors drive motos while others ride their bikes through nearly every small bumpy road in the capital city of Phnom Penh with their microphone, perhaps as a form of entertainment to attract attention, all the while ignoring the disruption their noise can have on residents.

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The modern world is developing at a fast pace, and business owners are having to find new and creative ways to beat competition.  Vendors who sell items such as porridge, ice-cream, coconut and even soft drinks have changed their advertising strategies from yelling to using a tape recorder. Mr Tok Borey, who has worked as an egg seller for more than three years, said the reason why he decided to use a tape was because he wanted to gain more customers.

But, most of them would just stay at home.

Borey found a voice recorder and microphone for a good price at the markets, and didn’t hesitate to buy it so he could keep from straining his voice.

Some Cambodian citisens may not notice or even care about the sound pollution that happens every-day. In fact, sound pollution is considered to be detrimental to people’s health.  

According to scientists, noise pollution can increase blood pressure and cause stress or insomnia; some say it affects our hearing abilities.    

Ms Pon Elin is a third-year student at the International University, and said that she does not approve of vendors using the loud noise to attract attention because just the sound of cars is enough for her to feel stressed. She added that sometimes the vendors have blasted their microphones infront of her home while she and her family are taking a nap. She complained that the sound of the speaker always wakes up her nephew, and they were finding it difficult to sleep.

However, Elin is not completely against these vendors, despite the anxiety.

“I don’t want [the government] to ban their business because I know that it is their duty to earn for their family. But, they need to think about other people by turning down the volume.”

She added that in her view, those who stay far away from the road will not come to buy their products when they hear the loud sounds of street vendors, and that their business strategy isn’t working.

“Portable businesses or vendors with speakers are not allowed to do their business, the municipal [government] had announced a long time ago, and commune chiefs or village chiefs will take action on this issue,” a high-ranking source from the Phnom Penh Municipal Government confirmed with LIFT reporters on March 16.

Mr Kong Sophan, commune chief of Deam Kor Market District, said that he also does not like the increase of the number of speakers used, because it is an interruption. He added that the Phnom Penh Municipal Government has limited the amount of vendors in order to improve the city’s environment, but despite that, the vendors still exercise a unique – and plausible – advertising technique.

“Some big firms or companies pay a fee in order to be able to advertise themselves through a speaker. Other vendors just [stay in business] through word-of-mouth as they can’t afford the fee. I don’t see any problem with that if they keep the city tidy,” he said.

As Cambodia is a developing country, LIFT recommends that small businesses or vendors along the road demonstrate concern for noise pollution and traffic problems. Simply reducing the volume of announcements and finding more suitable places to set up shop could make the Kingdom better for all. 

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