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Logo of Phnom Penh Post newspaper Phnom Penh Post - Shelling Razes Poipet Market

Shelling Razes Poipet Market

Poipet-Traders in Poipet's traditional market are moving to the new concrete bazaar

built earlier this year after shelling on Aug. 31 and Sep. 1 killed 15 people and

seriously wounded another 15.

Police and army in the district attribute the shelling, which came from south of

Poipet, to the Khmer Rouge, but several market stall holders, who did not wish to

be named, told the Post that they felt elements of the CAF who had previously belonged

to CAPF destroyed the market in order to free the site for property development.

"The (Khmer Rouge) came through Thailand and shelled Poipet as revenge for the

attack on Phnum Chat," said General Prum Moranak, commander of the CAF forces

at nearby Sisophon.

Stall holders feel that commercial interests induced local elements of the former

CPAF to shell their businesses.

"The local commander of the district told us to move by the 31st of August,"

said a younger stall holder in a blue tee-shirt as he stopped pulling down the wooden

latticework at the back of his shop. "We said we didn't want to go."

The day before the eviction deadline, soldiers came into the shops and pointed guns

at us in our shops, the young man added. "when the day came and we had not gone

the shelling started. Now that we are leaving the shelling has stopped."

The stall holders said they wanted to talk to the provincial commander for Banteay

Meancheay about the shelling, but they were afraid.

The shelling occurred between 6 a.m. and 8 a.m., as the businesses were opening for

the day. According to the traders the victims were primarily workers in the market

and not customers. On the second day of shelling traders began to remove their stocks

and dismantle their premises.

"Some want to do business in Thailand and not the new market but the commander

has ordered the border guards not to let them go," another trader commented.

A border guard later denied this.

Lying half a kilometer from the Thai border, the old Poipet market consisted of wooden

stalls covered by thin sheeting in an unpaved area of about 2500 square meters. The

new market lies another kilometer further away from the border. Constructed from

steel girders and with paving in some areas, the new market is surrounded on three

sides by concrete lock-up shops. Reputed to be the largest market in Cambodia, the

rents charged for the new market are 50 percent higher than in the old shopping area.

"In the old market the rents are 1000 baht a year. In the new market they will

be 1400-1600," a workman told the Post.

The traders believed that onc´they leave, the tin sheeting of the roofs would

be sold, the site razed, and new two story shops would be built on the site. The

new stores would then be sold for 30,000 baht each, the traders said.

As we interviewed stall holders two soldiers came and stood in the middle of the

crowd. When people dispersed, one soldier grabbed Sombol, the Post translator, by

the arm and said, "You are the translator. Tell them that the Khmer Rouge made

the shelling."

As soon as the soldier walked off, the blue tee shirted stall holder returned and

took Sombol behind a half-dismantled shop, where no one could hear. "You are

the translator," he said to Sombol. "Don't believed that. The market was

shelled by the army."

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