A MEMBER of Prime Minister Hun Sen’s cabinet yesterday told vendors located near Olympic Stadium that the government had approved a plan to carry out their eviction today.
About 100 vendors gathered outside Hun Sen’s Phnom Penh villa at about 8am yesterday morning to protest the eviction, saying officials should grant them a two-year extension so that they could find new locations for their stalls.
A statement signed by Phnom Penh Governor Kep Chuktema and dated October 4 said vendors located to the north and east of the market would have 15 days to relocate to make way for new offices for the
National Olympic Committee. Representatives of the vendors say roughly 1,000 will be affected.
The cabinet official, Kong Chamroeun, told the vendors gathered yesterday that top officials had signed off on a letter written on Monday by Minister of Education, Youth and Sport Im Sethy saying no extension should be granted.
A copy of the letter, obtained yesterday, states that the Education Ministry assumed control of “the controversial premises” from the Chinese development firm Yean Tay Group in July 2007.
“The premises have created lots of problems, such as the problems stemming from the renting of the area to vendors and other business owners,” the letter says.
It goes on to say that “the government has exercised its utmost mercy three times already” by allowing the vendors to stay. A two-year extension was granted in 2003, a six-month extension was granted in 2007 and a three-month extension was granted in May of this year, according to the letter, which was signed by Hun Sen on Wednesday.
After Kong Chamroeun relayed the contents of the letter to the demonstrators yesterday, vendor Khim Sarum shouted in response that it made little sense, saying that the stalls that stand to be affected had been erected in 2005.
“He is not right,” Khim Sarum said.
“He worked improperly. I do not believe Samdech [Hun Sen] knows about this eviction statement. We will never believe it until Samdech tells us directly.”
About 10 minutes after the vendors gathered yesterday, more than 20 military police officers with shields and batons pushed them towards Wat Botum, where they remained for much of the morning.
Though there were slight scuffles, no injuries were reported, vendors and officials said.
City military police commander Thong Piseth said the action had been necessary.
Lim Sophea, the deputy governor of Prampi Makara district, where the stadium and stalls are located, said the eviction would go ahead as scheduled today.
“We have all of the required documents, so we will act in accordance with the ministry’s request,” he said.