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Vendors at B'bang market protest company takeover

MORE than a hundred vendors at the Beung Chhouk market in Battambang are protesting a move by a private company to force them out of their stalls and onto the streets, demonstrators and company representatives say.

The Kim Hoc Heng company, which last year was awarded a 60-year contract to run the market, issued a notice to vendors Sunday telling them to leave the area before renovation work begins.

"Some shops in Beung Chhouk are too old and unsafe, so we need to repair them, and those shops do not belong to the vendors anyway," said Tang Chhun, general manager of Kim Hoc Heng company.

"After the repairs are complete, I will sell the stalls back to the venders who want to buy them and the price will start at $3,500," he said.

But vendors say that forcing them out of the market and onto the streets will ruin their business - making them vulnerable to the elements and causing chaos in the city centre. Moreover, they claim, they cannot afford to buy the stalls back.

"We depend on the old shops," said Hang Sophal, a vendor at the market. "If they want to move us, they should arrange new locations for us and not just throw us onto the street. How can we do our business there? We are more than one hundred vendors, so it will make for anarchy on the street," he said.

Relocation will be arranged

According to company representative Tang Chhun, a new location will be offered by local authorities to vendors willing to move from the old market.

"It is up to the provincial governor to find a solution. After that, I will start constructing new shops [for them]," he added.

But local rights group Licadho's representative in Battambang, Heng Say Hong, said he is worried about the situation.

"Moving the sellers is illegal [and violates] the company's contract, which says they will only repair the market and not sell it," he said, adding that he wants the governor to help.

But Uy Ry, governor of Battambang district, said it was up to the  company to solve the problem.

"We don't have a solution, and this case is not related to our authority. It is up to the company to negotiate with all the vendors," he said. 

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