PHNOM PENH'S Central Market - Psar Thmei - is on the verge of undergoing a $5.5 million
French Development Agency (FDA) officials are willing to give city governors 4.5
million euros to finance the renovation of one of the city's most famous buildings,
an architectural landmark.
But they will only hand over the cash if the municipality establishes an independent
commission to manage the renovated market.
The FDA has long-term plans to renovate Psar Kandal and Psar Chas as well, but this
work will only begin once Central Market is completed. It is expected the other two
markets will be demolished and rebuilt from scratch.
The autonomous body must be fully transparent, ensuring that every dollar of the
grant is properly spent. It will eventually manage all three markets.
Despite repeated telephone calls and visits, nobody from City Hall was willing to
comment on the plans. It is understood one of the primary functions of the new body
will be to ensure efficient management.
While the French are funding work on the markets, City Hall is expected to pay for
sanitation and road upgrades around the buildings.
Francois Giovalucchi of the FDA said the project could have a massive impact on Phnom
He said: "This project is at an important stage; for the moment the conditions
for disbursement are not yet totally satisfied.
"We want to do this as quickly and efficiently as possible.
"If we can have all three markets upgraded, and a clear route between them,
it will greatly improve the lives of traders and people living nearby. It would also
be a major tourist attraction."
The FDA announced that work on the three most popular markets will be broken into
two stages, and not one as originally planned.
The first step once the new body is set up will be to work on Central Market. It
is estimated this work will take 18 months.
Traders working at Kandal Market will be housed on a vacant piece of land nearby
which was once used as a prison, and a similar solution will apply to stall holders
at Psar Chas.
Built in 1936 by the French, Central Market, or Psar Thmei, is one of Phnom Penh's
most famous buildings, and at the time it opened was said to be the biggest market
The FDA said Central Market will not be forced to close while renovation work is
done. It explained that the structure of the market with its four separate wings
makes it possible for the work to be done in stages.
French architect Laszlo Mester de Parajd, who is visiting Phnom Penh from Paris to
advise on the project, said: "Central Market is a very beautiful building and
when it was built the size of it and the fact it was made from concrete made it a
very impressive construction.
"We think it should be a landmark for the city, and if we renovate all three
markets it will be an important event."
There was confusion among some Kandal Market traders about the future of their stalls.
* Pov Malease, 36, fruit juice seller, supports the plan but said: " I am very
worried where the municipality will place us during renovations."
Malease she doesn't have her own shop; she sub-rents for 1,500 riel per day, but
she has to spends 60,000 riel for electricity and 8,000 riel for sanitation every
month. She wants to have her own shop and hopes the new market is built quickly.
* Tong Hor, 45, Cassette-CD-VCD seller, said he heard news about renovating Kandal
one year ago, but has seen nothing yet.
"I don't want a new Kandal Market because I'll have to spend more money to buy
a new shop. Right now I have my own shop. I bought it when Kandal first started.
If the muncipality doesn't ask for more money I'm very happy to let them renovate."
He said when traders first heard about the plans, they wanted to stage a demonstration,
but later the municipality called them one at a time to explain the proposal and
no demonstration happened.
"We are ants, we cannot compete with the elephant. So we just follow what they
want us to do."
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