MORE than 1,000 vendors at Banlung Market in Ratanakkiri province staged a protest on Thursday to demand lower rents and daily charges after the management reportedly raised the price of rent, vendors said Thursday.
“Vendors here had been paying between US$150 and $300 per year for their shops, but in November and December, everyone’s rent went up by $60,” said You Eng Kong, a Banlung vendor representative.
“We’ve been protesting for two days already, ever since we saw on the owner’s books that daily market taxes should have been fixed at 300 riels per shop. We were being charged 500 to 1,000 riels,” he added.
Claims of extortion
Disgruntled vendor Soun Thona said that in addition to overcharging, owners sometimes resorted to outright dishonesty to gain extra money from sellers.
“I sell only ice, but they asked me to pay $300 per year for my stand,” she said. “I had to borrow from my neighbour to pay them, but when I handed them the cash they wrote a receipt for just $150. Where did the other $150 go?”
She continued: “Until now we’ve been afraid to speak up, because they threatened to have anybody who filed a complaint arrested.”
Sa Leang, a representative of the Heng Dara Company, one of the market’s investors, argued that vendors were aware of the market’s policies when they rented shops there, and that these policies have not changed since that time.
“The Banlung Market provides all vendors with shops in the previous market with the opportunity to rent space in the new market once it opens, and about 90 percent of vendors agreed to our terms,” he said.
“While large shops rent for $800 per year, vendors with smaller shops knew they would be charged $50- $90 per year, but some vendors are taking this opportunity to protest and say we increased the price.”