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Riverfront pavement cleared

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Police and municipal officials move a potted plant off the riverside pavement on Monday. TRACEY SHELTON

EARLY Sunday morning, as tourists dined at the Tonle Sap riverfront cafes and street-sellers pedalled their goods, a team of police began clearing the footpath of all chairs, tables, dining tourists, signs, motorbikes and ornaments.

The move came three days after a warning notice was issued telling businesses to clear the street area in front of their properties.

A police officer who did not wish to be named said the area was being cleared because it was a place tourists liked to walk.

"We have told [business owners] several times via letter and loudspeaker, but they have never listened, so we are now acting on our warnings," he said.

The reaction from business owners and tourists was mixed, with some welcoming the clearing of the sidewalks and others grumbling over the loss of shopfront seating areas.

"It's more beautiful for the tourists but not so good for my shop," said Siv Kheng, who runs a clothing store on the corner of Street 130.

"I'm not sure there is even room for my staff to fit inside now," she said.

For Australian tourist Matthew Bolton, who witnessed the upheaval from the (former) outdoor seating of Garden Bar in the Shade, the move was not necessarily a good thing.

"We came to Cambodia with an idea of embracing Khmer culture and to us the bustling, active streets are part of its character," he said.

But Bolton's 10-year-old son Bleys disagreed, saying the new look not only provides more space to walk but there are "less people to hassle you".

Phsar Kandal commune Chief Kong Rith said no fines had yet been issued for noncompliance, but he warned that failure to obey the directive would result in items being confiscated.

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