Knowing that streets would be blocked off and fearing a loss of business, enterprising vendors at Phsar Kap Ko market in Phnom Penh positioned themselves on the other side of barricades yesterday morning and sold their products.
Located on Street 9 between Sihanouk Boulevard and Street 294, the market was one of many areas hemmed in by razor-wire during the opening session of the National Assembly yesterday, which opposition lawmakers boycotted in protest over the disputed election in July.
The same street was cut off when opposition leaders kicked off a three-day rally at Freedom Park on September 15.
“If I didn’t sell fish here [by street 294], I wouldn’t have any customers at all,” Heom Ath, 38, said, standing one metre away from the razor-wire blockade.
Some vendors were even seen selling items through the wire, but blocked streets kept many customers away.
Ath, who usually takes home 60,000 riel ($15) per day, made only 20,000 riel. Like many vendors, she was not told the market would be blocked off. Had she known, she would not have brought as much supply.
“I have been selling it at lower prices, but I still have a lot of fish left, more than usual.”
Blockades in the area around the National Assembly building will be in place today and tomorrow, according to a government statement that did not specify specific streets.
Residents and business owners woke up Monday morning to a labyrinth of road blocks around the National Assembly and streets nearby. An entrance to Sihanouk from Independence Monument was inaccessible, and the only way to get to the market was via Sothearos.
“If I had a business here, I would be angry too. But I need to do my job,” said a police officer who declined to be named because he was not authorised to speak to the media.
Like her customers, Lux Sokhim, 33, had difficulty getting to Phsar Kap Ko.
“It was hard bringing my fish and vegetables to the market,” Sokhim said, adding that after lugging all her goods there, she sold only half them.
The vendors, however, were luckier than the businesses that couldn’t move at all.
Chhorn Rorn, 35, sells an assortment of groceries and household products from her store in the market.
“Many people here are very angry because they cannot sell anything,” Rorn said.
Unable to pick up and move, she earned less than 10,000 riel by Monday afternoon, compared to the 40,000 riel she usually collects by the end of the day.