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Stall holder protest wins reduced rent

OWNERS of a shopping centre in Phnom Penh's Tuol Kork district have agreed to reduce the rental charges on their stalls by 10 percent after vendors froze all business to protest escalating costs last week.

More than 200 vendors at Sovanna shopping centre protested Thursday and Friday, demanding stall rents be reduced by 30 percent, said a bag vendor, who identified herself only as  Phea, on Sunday.

She said that after two days of halting trade, vendors and the centre's management had come to a resolution. "They are giving us a 10 percent discount from our current stall costs," she said.

But Phea, who has now returned to run her businesses as normal, said that despite the recent "success", vendors continue to struggle to meet spiraling utility and lease costs.

"Sovanna is not located in an area where people have a lot of money to buy expensive things," she said, adding that she pays over US$700 a month for a 23-square-metre stall.

A vendor of children's clothing who declined to be named said that often it was hard to break even. "I do not make a profit some days," she said, adding she has to earn at least $25 per day to keep up with her $462 per month rental payment to Sovanna.

"People just come to window shop at Sovanna because it's comfortable," she said. "Customers complain of expensive things," she said, adding that if her business does not improve, she will have to close.

Negotiate, don't protest

Pung Kheav Se, director general of Sovanna shopping center, said by phone Sunday that the company had recently decided to give a 10 percent  discount to vendors and in six months would review the situation if vendors could still not make a profit.

"Our policy is that profit must go to vendors first," he said. "We do not want vendors to protest. We want them to negotiate with us if there is something they disagree with, and we will find a solution," he added.

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