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Vendors close stores to protest

ABOUT 200 Sovanna Shopping Centre vendors closed their stores and protested inside the shopping mall on Tuesday, demanding that the owner lower their rent during the economic crisis.

"It is hard to do business now with the economic crisis, so we want the owner to reduce the rental price for a while," said Phea, owner of Fashion Clothes, who did not want to reveal his full name, adding that recently he has been able to sell only one or two items of clothing per day.

Opening in March 2008 and spanning about 50,000 square metres, Sovanna Shopping Centre is Phnom Penh's newest and largest mall.

The owner of the mall's Super Star clothing shop, who declined to give his name, said that vendors paid US$700 to $800 a month to rent

space for one store.

"But if we have no customers, how can we pay it.... We cannot run a business well right now," she said. The owner added that the protestors were demanding that rent temporarily drop by 30 percent.

According to market vendors, the owner of the Sovanna Shopping Mall said he would be willing to compromise on Monday by lowering their rent by 15 percent.

"But we are still demanding that he reduce rent as we request," said Da, a clothing vendor who declined to reveal her surname. "He said he could not reduce the price anymore because he will lose his profits."

Despite the owner's willingness to lower rent, Da said that the vendors would continue their protests indefinitely.

The general manager of Sovanna Shopping Centre was not available for comment on Tuesday.

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