In its push to turn Phnom Penh into a more 'beautiful' city, the
government has warned that it will continue to crack down on
Vendors from Russian market protest late in October after city officials told them they could not sell their goods on the streets surrounding the market.
CLASHES between police and street-based vendors are likely to increase in the upcoming months as the government continues its push to "beautify" the city, officials warn.
Lim Leang Ser, deputy chief of Prime Minister Hun Sen's Cabinet, told the Post last week that a citywide "clean-up" was necessary if Phnom Penh wants to develop into a "good" city.
"We have planned to crack down [on vendors] throughout Phnom Penh because our country is developing, and as we know, improving a country depends on having a good city," he said.
"They sell on the streets because our country is not improved yet, so now we have to change."
Vendors across the city continue to protest the street bans, which were introduced in October, but say they have suffered from intimidation and bullying from police, including threats of court orders and violence.
Chhun Nary, a pork seller outside the Russian market, said that since she began protesting the crackdown she had received threats and abuse.
"The police threatened me and other vendors, saying that if we try to go and sell at the same place, they will arrest us and put us in prison," she said.
"They told me that I am a rebel, and that I am like a member of the Khmer Rouge. I am afraid now because they have taken notice of my face, and they took photos of me as well," she added.
The government has denied that their crackdown is taking the out-of-sight, out-of-mind approach to street beautification popular with authorities during Water Festival.
PM ‘not carefree' with poor
"The prime minister is not being carefree with poor people," Lim Leang Ser said. "He just wants to move them to a more suitable place. This is the law. City Hall has decided it wants to organise the city and make it better-looking. If they continue to protest, it will be useless," he said.
Am Sam Ath, a monitoring supervisor for rights group Licadho, said that though development was needed, the government must prioritise the rights of its people.
[Hun Sen] is not being carefree with poor people, he just wants to move them.
"Before developing the country, the government should think about how it will affect the poor," he said.
"They don't have money to buy goods or a new place to sell, and if the government doesn't solve the problem for them, it could affect local economies," he said.
Chhun Nary said the clean-up threatened her livelihood and that, although new markets had been set up for street vendors, the government was charging US$3,000 for stalls, which was too much for most vendors.
"It really impacts my life because I don't have any income, and nowadays we can only afford to eat eggs. I am worried about this problem, but I don't know how much more I can do to fight it," she said.