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Blaze at market prompts concern among vendors

Ruins of a fire that destroyed 14 stalls in Phnom Penh’s Kandal Market yesterday.
Ruins of a fire that destroyed 14 stalls in Phnom Penh’s Kandal Market yesterday. Sahiba Chawdhary

Blaze at market prompts concern among vendors

At least 14 market stalls were completely destroyed and three other stalls damaged during a fire at Kandal Market in Phnom Penh’s Daun Penh district early yesterday morning, the chief of the Phnom Penh Fire Department said yesterday.

Chief Prum Yorn said the fire, likely caused by an electrical malfunction, broke out in stall number 49 in Kandal Market at around 4:15am yesterday, spreading through the structure before it was put out by 18 municipal police fire trucks and two military police fire trucks.

“The fire could be from an electric fault. It destroyed 14 stalls and damaged three. Luckily not all stalls were destroyed because our fire trucks came on time and we managed to stop the fire by 5am,” he said.

Seng Sopheavy, market vendor, said, “When I heard about the fire, I came early to the market to move the goods from the stall. But my family was in a panic as we live far away from the market.”

Luckily, the fire was put out before Sopheavy’s stall suffered any damage. Kandal Market director Chab Dyna said: “Thanks to the vendors’ and the authorities’ quick response, the fire was stopped within an hour and did not spread to so many other stalls.”

Rumours began to circulate yesterday that the fire was deliberately started to win support for plans to redevelop the market.

The government had initially proposed redevelopment plans for Kandal Market as early as 2009, but the renovation was scrapped then due to protests.

It was put on hold again in May last year due to further protests over fears of high rental costs by roughly 400 vendors. Yorn, meanwhile, denied the rumours, admonishing vendors not to “accuse the authorities ... the government is trying to solve the market’s problems”.

Pa Socheatvong, Phnom Penh city governor, met with the vendors at Kandal Market yesterday morning, urging them to rebuild their stalls and to support the previously shelved redevelopment plans.

“The authorities had urged vendors to support the building of a new market, but the project was stopped because of the protests of the vendors. So please join us in preparing a well-organised market,” he said.

Reached yesterday, Socheatvong said no renovation would take place as long as vendors opposed it, but acknowledged that if it did go ahead, the new rates would be “very high”.

Market director Dyna offered a similar take on the plans. “The authorities want to redevelop the market into a new one . . . but the stall prices will rise too. [But] the project will not continue unless vendors agree.”

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