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Logo of Phnom Penh Post newspaper Phnom Penh Post - Tempers flare over market marching orders

Tempers flare over market marching orders

tempers.jpg
tempers.jpg

The 1,150 market stall holders at Sihanoukville's Psar Leu say they will go on

strike today for three days in a protest at government attempts to persuade them

to relocate to a new market at higher rents.

Vendors mill around Sihanoukville's Psar Leu after receiving their eviction notices on May 14.

They received eviction

notices last Friday, May 14, along with invitations to apply for leases at the

new market.

An angry crowd marched to the deputy governor's office the

next day.

He told them he can do nothing, that the municipality has a

committed contract with the Chinese owners of the new market, Psar Leu Thmey

(which some have dubbed Psar Thom, or "big market").

A delegation of 10

vendors will travel to Phnom Penh and attempt to ask Prime Minister Hun Sen to

intervene.

"If we can't see him we will talk to anyone who is prepared

to listen to us. We are very angry and we want the government to resolve the

situation," said watchmaker Khim Sony.

Sony said the 1,150 stalls

represented an estimated 3,000 vendors.

Most stallholders are attracted

by the prospect of a new, well-drained, purpose-built market, because

government-owned Psar Leu is said to become a pigsty when it

rains.

However, they say their businesses are very small and do little

more than keep food on the home table. They maintain the Psar Thom rents are

unaffordable for most.

According to Sony the upfront cost of a 50-year

lease at Psar Thom is $2,940 for a 2m-by-2m stall and up to $18,000 for the

larger ones.

Discount terms are being offered for payments spread over

four months, starting with a 60 percent downpayment, and nothing more to pay for

12 months.

The Psar Leu vendors also say Psar Thom has only one road

entrance and stalls near the entrance will have an unfair advantage over all

others.

The Post contacted First Deputy Governor Chhun Sirun to ask how

he intended to deal with the vendors' concerns, but he said he was too busy to

talk about it, and that he didn't discuss such matters by telephone

anyway.

Psar Thom has a checkered history. Recognising that Psar Leu was

reaching the end of its useful life without major upgrading, the muncipality

four or five years ago encouraged a Korean investor to build a new

1,200-lockup-stalls market 200 meters away,

However, after the building

was finished, there was a change of Governor. The market owner declined to pay

new government fees and taxes, and decided to sell out to a Chinese investor,

who has spent some months sprucing the place up.

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