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Logo of Phnom Penh Post newspaper Phnom Penh Post - Stall-holders reject TBR concessions

Stall-holders reject TBR concessions

Angry vendors have turned down major new concessions by the Thai Boon Roong

company and have vowed to hold out for free stalls in the new Olympic market

building.

The vendors boycotted a public forum called last week by the

Royal Government and Phnom Penh municipal authorities, with only 38 of around

2,000 turning up.

The meeting had been intended to end the bitter

three-month dispute between stall holders and the giant Thai property

development and trading company, which has seen the traders demonstrating

outside the National Assembly.

The traders made a counter proposal

calling for the dispute to be settled in court.

Despite the sparse turn

out at the public forum, Neou Kanon, secretary of state for the Prime Minister's

office unveiled a four-point plan agreed on by the government and

TBR.

It offered:

 

  • To drop the price of stalls by $1,000 with the cheapest coming down from

    $6,000 to $5,000.

  • To drop the requirement to pay a deposit to secure a stall.
  • Interest free monthly repayments over 15 years of $13 to $35.
  • Vendors be given the right to transfer ownership of their stalls - with

    permission from the company.

The concessions were the result of many rounds of talks between the

government and the company for the past three months.

Of the 38 traders

who did bother to show up at the meeting, 10 voted in favor of the proposal, 11

were against, with 17 abstentions.

Those who did attend the meeting

informed the rest of the traders, who were mostly unmoved by them.

They

had already issued a press release saying they refused to pay anything at all

for stalls in the new building which was completed in November.

The

vendors claim they already have ownership of the site, which is built on the old

market and believe they were tricked by TBR.

They claim they were led to

believe that they wouldn't have to pay for the new stalls.

A number of

traders interviewed by thePost said the concessions made no difference to their

intention to battle on, saying paying for the stalls was not an

option.

Earlier the Post spoke to traders who attended the forum and

voted for the proposals.

"I'm happy because the fee is fixed that I can

pay monthly for 15 years. I agree," said Kim Sary, a pork seller who took part

in the meeting.

"If the rent is really paid monthly and fixed, I might be

able to pay. It's reasonable," said Lee Heang, a cigarette wholesaler.

The cost of buying a cigarette stall is $40 a month, he said.

"The government helps a lot. This formula is quite reasonable and makes

the situation relaxed too. If they agree to enter [the new market] I'll do so,"

he said.

Kanon said after the forum: "We'll wait for a new instruction

from the government, but as I could see it was the last [offer] and it can not

be delayed anymore."

He expressed concern over the delay in settling the

issue and said an inter-ministerial committee would seek further recommendations

from government leaders as the dispute can not be sorted out at the municipality

level anymore.

"We will let the public to judge the proposals and all

the efforts we've made if they are just or not. My personal opinion is that the

concession is reasonable," Kanon said.

Officials of Phnom Penh

Municipality believed that the merchants were influenced by outsiders to prolong

the dispute. However, they refused to confirm.

Secretary of State Neou

Kanon called on the merchants to avoid turning the dispute into a political one

which could disrupt government efforts to attract foreign

investment.

"What we should be concerned about is that the US has already

lifted the trade embargo against Vietnam.

"If we don't try hard, don't

take good care of investors, they won't come to our country. Thus, national

rehabilitation has no progress, our children will be unemployed. This is a very

big issue."

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