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Hundreds of street vendors protest amid crackdown

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Vendors' stalls were stripped by police after they protested new municipal regulations requiring them to leave the area

Photo by: Vandy Rattana

Female street vendors gather at the protest, angered by the use of police force to make them leave the area around Russian market.

MORE than 700 street vendors who peddle their wares around the Russian market became targets of a vicious police crackdown after they protested against new regulations that had them banned from the area as of Thursday.

Since 3am Thursday, groups of police have been collecting - and then damaging - vendors' merchandise and equipment, after they refused to pack up their stalls.

"They are killing poor people without thinking about their difficulties," said Moeun Chanvy, 40, a fish seller who has been on the street 20 years.

"I am so angry and I will protest against them until they find a suitable place for us to sell," she said.  

Vendors were protesting against new regulations issued by the Phnom Penh Municipality on October 9 that prohibited them selling their products in the area.  

"The police yelled and cursed at us to leave the street. But I am not afraid to protest against them because I know I'm not wrong," Moeun Chanvy said.

Municipality officials, who could not be contacted about the incident Thursday, had earlier urged vendors to set up their stalls in the new, privately run Beoung Trabek market, 500 metres from Russian market. But vendors said the new location did not offer any business.

"I cannot go to sell at the new place because I don't have a store, and it will not have customers," Peoung Vutha, a 34-year-old noodle vendor said.

They are killing poor people without thinking about their difficulties

"There were many vendors who used to sell there but they came back because there were no buyers," he added. "So I will continue protesting despite the crackdown because I have no choice."

Chheng Chheak, chief of Tuol Tompoung 1 commune, said that the new municipality regulations were created to make way for development, adding that the vendors made the city look unpleasant.

"We're not expelling them without thinking, we are just asking them to sell in another place," he told the Post Thursday.

"We need help from the prime minister and I hope that he will help us. If he cannot we will die, because we don't have any income," said noodle-vendor Peoung Vutha.

A police officer present at the protest, which continued throughout the day Thursday, declined to comment on the crackdown, except to say that he was "told to do it".

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