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Logo of Phnom Penh Post newspaper Phnom Penh Post - Fed up, mall vendors protest rent hikes

Fed up, mall vendors protest rent hikes

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Fed up with rent hikes, hundreds of sellers packed up their fluorescent halter

tops, glittering barrettes and low-slung jeans Dec. 16 and streamed out of Sorya

Market in protest.

Angered by rising rents, vendors at the Sorya Shopping Center shut down stalls and walked out en masse Thursday afternoon.

Waiting in clumps outside Phnom Penh's largest mall

Thursday afternoon, they said they wouldn't reopen for business until the

center's owner agreed to negotiate with them.

When the Post went to

press on Thursday, staff from Sorya said management representatives had begun

discussions with vendors and they hoped people would go back to work "very

soon."

Bourn Sopheakna, who rents a beauty shop in Sorya, said the

sellers had already talked to the owner six times since October 27 to prevent

rent increases that ranged from 5 to 35 percent.

But she said the owner

refused to meet their demands, raising the cost of rent on shops when their

annual contracts expired. Sellers said they did not know why the owner had

increased prices.

"We waited for a solution for more than one month," she

said. "We could not wait anymore. Our patience is limited."

Certain

vendors began shuttering their shops just after lunch and the movement

snowballed, with a hurried exodus out of the mall around 2:00 p.m. Groups

outside held signs demanding the shop owner lower costs while guards locked the

building.

Heng Vuthy, who rents a clothing shop, explained that sellers

could not survive with such high rents. He said that most people come to Sorya

just to see the modern market, and they don't necessarily buy many products

there.

Plus, seasonal challenges had made this a particularly difficult

year for vendors, he said.

"Our selling is not the best this year because

people in the provinces are facing drought," he said. "They have no money to buy

things with high prices."

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