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Logo of Phnom Penh Post newspaper Phnom Penh Post - TBR Olympic market to open

TBR Olympic market to open

T HE Thai Boon Roong Company [TBR] is quietly accepting applications for sales

space at the new Olympic market. This surprising turn of events has occurred in

spite of TBR's failure to reach a settlement with the vendors at the old Olympic

Market over the conditions of their access to the new market.

Bills from

the Council of Ministers have been posted around the old Olympic market saying

the TBR building will open on June 30 and that the vendors from the old site

have until July 30 to commit themselves to a stall with TBR. After that date,

the posters say, the traders will lose their right to rent space.

In a

June 23 protest letter sent to the Council of Ministers and obtained by the

Post, vendors said that Hun Sen, the second prime minister, had given TBR the go

ahead on June 15 to open it.

The TBR is currently offering to rent

stalls to certified vendors from the old market. Over the course of the six

month dispute with these vendors, the schedule of rents was reduced twice. But

the vendors from the old market have continued to reject the offer, and as a

group continue to insist that the stalls be provided free. In the past King

Norodom Sihanouk and Finance Minister Sam Rainsy have supported the vendors'

argument that they should be given free space in the new market, which was

completed in November. Vendors backed their demands with street protests early

this year.

Potential new vendors are now buying application forms at the

new market for 1,000 riel. They are being offered sales space at prices starting

at $12,000 - they are not eligible to rent.

In the past two weeks

hundreds of people have gone to the TBR building to discuss or complete deals.

 

Some vendors from the old market have broken ranks with the majority of their

compatriots, and have submitted applications to rent space. Extensive interviews

by the Post with these vendors indicate that more are likely to follow suit.

The dilemma facing the traders is a product of several factors: their

stubbornness in their demands for free stalls, the go-ahead given by the Royal

Government to TBR and vague televised threats from the government, aimed at the

old vendors.

As a consequence, if the vendors remain collectively inflexible, they may be

squeezed out by the new market, security chief Ly said. He said: "If the vendors

do not accept a stall at the new Olympic market by the end of August, they will

be considered new vendors and will lose their right to rent. They will have to

negotiate directly with the [TBR] company."

The government has warned the

vendors that they will be evicted from their current locations near the Olympic

Stadium in August. This message was broadcast on radio and television. Vendors

at the old market say that they were told that if they did not leave the old

market area by August unspecified "strict measures would be taken."

A

casssette tape seller at the old site said: "There is no doubt that the

government will evict us. They dare to say this, they dare to do it,"

A

second-hand clothes vendor added: "All of us don't want to move. We move with

tears, because of the force."

When the TBR began construction on the New

Olympic Market, vendors from the old market were temporarily moved to land next

to Olympic Stadium. The land will be returned to the Education Ministry,

official posters at the market say .

One vendor interviewed at the new

market said: "We are in a deadlock with the government. But like fish with no

water, we must move to find water. I think that 90 percent of the old vendors

will rent in the end."

Nam Ngang is one of a growing number of old

vendors who have inspected the new market. "I want to rent a stall to sell candy

and soft drinks, but $60 a month is a lot of money. The stall here is very good,

but it is narrow."

When asked whether he thought that things would be

better at the new market, he said: "At the old market, I only made enough money

for food. Here maybe it is worse, but what choice do I have?"

Another old

vendor said: "A good place is not the problem, the problem is finding the

capital to pay for the stall and the goods to sell. Some people have saved money

since 1979, so they may have enough to pay for the stall, but where will they

find the money to stock it?"

One old cigarette vendor said: "I don't want

to rent a stall in the new Olympic market, but in two months I will be forced to

move from my old stall. I don't think that I will make very much money here but

I have no choice."

Three women were deeply disappointed by the registration. They said that they

had been fish and vegetable sellers at the Olympic market from the very

beginning. "We sold vegetables and fish on the ground, so we did not have a

stall, and we did not have a stall certificate. The people here say we are just

like new venders, and we must buy a stall, we cannot rent." Rental of the fish

and vegetable stalls is $13 a month, while sale of the stall is

$13,000.

There has also been a market in old stall certificates. In one

case rights for a cosmetics stalls went up for sale at $1,700.

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