‘Made in Cambodia’ may sound like Channel 4’s new reality TV show * but is in fact a new, monthly street market starting on March 2 outside Shinta Mani Hotel on a 6 month trial.
The market will sell exclusively Khmer-made products, from clothes to handicrafts to art, and will also have food stalls and live music.
Newly-appointed Shinta Mani general manager and former sales and marketing director for Hotel de la Paix, Christian de Boer says the idea came to him in a dream.
“It woke me up in the middle of the night,” he says. “At the moment if tourists buy a present for friends back home, it often says made in Taiwan or China. It’s not made here. What Cambodia needs right now is jobs and money. We as a hotel create jobs, but I thought, how can we create even more?”
De Boer decided that a monthly street market in the centre of town showcasing Cambodian-made products would do just that.
“By creating this place where only items made in Cambodia are sold, I believe that a lot of people will benefit. I also believe that if I as general manager of Shinta Mani had proposed to sell these items in the shop it would have some impact, but not a lot. But if we multiply this by 30 stalls, 30 different NGOs or companies with the same vision, it suddenly becomes much larger.”
De Boer has already spoken to the local governor about shutting off the road – the stalls will stretch all the way down the street – and happily reports he has been “very helpful”, even coming up with some suggestions of his own.
The finer details have yet to be worked out but some stallholders from the Angkor Handicraft Association market on Road 60 have expressed interest, as have designer Eric Raisina, photographer John McDermott and scented-candle company Saarti. De Boer sees the market as an extension of the Angkor Handicraft Association, which shares the same ‘home-grown’ ethos.
De Boer hopes to secure the talents of resident singers and DJs to perform at the monthly market, creating more of a buzz around it.
“I am hoping to attract 30-35 different stalls, but it needs to be an event. I am hoping to get the support of, for instance, a DJ. I’d love to have the gentleman who walks around near Pub St who jumps through the hoops, which I find remarkable. I’d love a Khmer school band to do a performance.
“We’ve approached the fantastic people of Sala Bai, of Sugar Palm, of quite a few others in order for them to participate. We all have the same goal of promoting Cambodia and a market with some food stalls is great. So Sugar Palm does its favourite dish, Sala Bai does a barbecue stand, people can bake cakes or face-painting for children – anything. As long as it’s a bit of a happening, something where people want to go and realise afterwards that it was great fun’.”
De Boer has also talked to some of the big tour operators to get their support and says the feedback has been extremely positive.
“If it is a success then I don’t see why we shouldn’t continue this long-term. Or if the governor of Siem Reap allows it then we could do it weekly. It’s merely a trial; some of my dreams become reality and others don’t,” he smiles.
“The fact that Eric Raisina and John McDermott are interested gives it a cachet. It’s not just $2 things but actually, ‘wow you can buy a real Eric Raisina scarf’.”
“There are some amazing, amazing people in this little village with some amazing initiatives. But only the commercial initiatives actually are able to sustain themselves.”
Made in Cambodia market will run from 3 – 9pm on the first Saturday of every month for the six month trial.
*Note: British readers may be familiar with TV show, Made in Chelsea, now in its fifth series