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Logo of Phnom Penh Post newspaper Phnom Penh Post - Vendors lament street cleanup

Vendors lament street cleanup

Vendors.jpg
Vendors.jpg

Police have cracked down on roadside stalls on Monivong Boulevard, confiscating petrol

from sidewalk vendors and issuing fines as part of a municipal policy to clean up

Phnom Penh streets.

Not moving: Monivong petrol vendor Ear Ra with Seng Rinda, 10, and Seng Ralin, 2. If she can no longer petrol, she will place her children in an orphanage.

Yin Ngoun Kolenin, Deputy Governor of Phnom Penh Municipality, said Monivong was

the first of 13 streets in his district to be targeted for cleanup under the month-old

municipal policy. Other streets include Kampuchea Krom, Sihanouk, Monireth and Streets

182, 169, 107, 109, 161, 214 and 105.

But affected vendors are questioning the cost of cleaning up. Ear Ra, 32 years old

and divorced, sells petrol from a 200-liter Tela barrel on the corner of Street 214

and Monivong. Five months ago she claims traffic police seized her barrel and returned

it (empty) only after she paid a $10 fine.

Since then, she says police have routinely cracked down on the two petrol stalls

on Monivong. Now when she sees police coming, she grabs her barrel and a tug of war

ensues. If she wins, the police leave. If she loses, the police take the can, remove

the petrol, and enforce the fine.

Ra gets the petrol from a local Tela station, and pays them for what she sells. If

she sells 30 liters, she will pay Tela 62,000 riel. She sells the gas on the street

for 2,300 riel per liter. At Tela stations, gas sells for 2,500 riel per liter. On

one occasion she said police confiscated her barrel with 60 liters of petrol and

returned it empty. She is still paying off the debt.

Ra says she has no choice but to keep returning to the street corner with her petrol

can and cigarettes. "If I stop even one day I will have no rice to eat."

She needs money to send her children aged 10 and two to school, and of more immediate

concern, to find somewhere to live. The land she rents behind her stall is being

renovated, and the landlord has told her she must find another place to live. "I

will have to leave my children in an orphanage and find another job," she says.

"Do you know any jobs?"

Kolenin admits the crackdown on petrol vendors has had dubious results.

"When we confiscate the can to the police station, the vendors cry. I take pity

on them and let them take it back. Two days later they are back at the same place,"

he says.

Infringement notices are not much better. "Gasoline vendors have no money, so

now we just give out warning notices saying if they get caught again, they will get

their petrol confiscated." He is currently looking at better ways of enforcing

the policy.

To minimize police hassling, Ra now opens only after 7pm. On the day the Post spoke

to her, she had been open since 3:30, capitalizing on the ministerial wedding on

the adjacent block that was attracting more police attention. On days like this,

she can make a profit of 7,000 riel.

"The police say they are doing it to create a good image for foreigners. They

say that other countries do not sell petrol like this. But the police do not know

the standard of living on these streets, where people can die from hunger,"

she said.

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