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Heavy machinery helps move the charred remnants of stalls at Phsar Chas yesterday in Phnom Penh
Heavy machinery helps move the charred remnants of stalls at Phsar Chas yesterday in Phnom Penh. Pha Lina

No compensation for vendors at Old Market

The committee that runs Old Market in Phnom Penh told the owners of stalls that were gutted by a fire on Monday that they would receive no compensation and would have to rebuild their businesses themselves.

A committee representative said the fire was an accident – hence no compensation – and also said that it would be faster for the business owners to do the job if they did it themselves.

Roughly 300 of the 914 stalls at the market, known as Phsar Chas in Khmer, were ruined in the morning blaze, which caused an estimated $1.5 million in damage.

Hours after the fire was brought under control, the municipality released a statement attributing the cause to an electrical fault that occurred near a vendor’s plastic bags, setting them alight.

Yun Chandara, director of the committee that oversees the market, told vendors that the city – which owns the property – has told stall owners to rebuild on their own; otherwise the authorities may take too much time.

“We please suggest all the vendors who have stall fire [damage] rebuild the stall by themselves,” he said yesterday after a meeting with vendors. “The fire, no one wants this to have happened.”

Stall owners were not pleased about the lack of compensation, but they were reassured that they would not have to leave the market.

“At least, we’re happy that we can build a new stall at our old place. The market has no plan to force us to move for a new development,” said Kim Ly, a stall owner.

But authorities aren’t leaving it all to the businesses.

Kouch Chamrouen, Daun Penh district governor, said a clean-up team was out in force yesterday.

“We need to clean the ash first for paving the way to evaluate the effects [of the fire] … and some vendors [whose] stalls did not burn can sell as usual,” he said.

While the recovery begins, at least one other similar venue is meeting with stall owners to talk about fire safety.

At Kandal Market, a few blocks from Phsar Chas, Chab Dyna, the director the market committee, said sellers are being encouraged to have fire extinguishers.

“The fire at the Phsar Chas market is an experience for all markets in the city, so we would like all the vendors, please be careful”, he said.

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