Twenty representatives of 70 shop owners who rent their premises in the capital’s Borei Keila market on Monday petitioned Prampi Makara district authorities, demanding the market owner lower the rent by 50 per cent for six months to offset losses caused by the Covid-19 pandemic.

One of the shop owners, Trem Cheang Roeun, said they had originally planned a protest to take place in front of the market, but it was cancelled.

Instead, they collected fingerprints and sent the petition, an alternative that was recommended by the authorities, to adhere to social distancing.

Rouen said the authorities expressed a desire to help if they completed the petition.

He pays $300 a month for his motorbike selling and repair business and said shop owners had no choice but to make a demand because they cannot afford to pay the normal rate while they suffer a massive decline in customers.

The market owner, whom shop owners refer to as Ta Khoeun, had previously claimed he wouldn’t budge on the rent and if the shop tenants couldn’t afford to pay, they had to leave, Rouen said.

“Sellers intend to pay our rent, but we cannot for the past two months because of the Covid-19 situation. We do not have income, and we have used up our savings.

“We truly cannot pay for April and May. We’re asking the owner to lower the price just for a while. If the situation gets better, we would pay him back as normal,” he said.

Chea Vutha, a motorbike repairman who has been renting a shop at Borei Keila for 10 years told The Post that his family’s income has dropped by more than half after some of his relatives lost their jobs or had their salary reduced.

“We do not want a 50 per cent reduction necessarily, we just want the market owner to show some empathy by lowering the rent.

“If we cannot get a 50 per cent reduction, then at least reduce it by 20 per cent until the economy gets back to normal. We are not threatening him [the market owner], it is just that we cannot earn enough money at this time,” he said.

Khoeun could not be reached for comment on Monday.

Prampi Makara administration chief Mob Sareth told The Post on Monday that the authorities would try to facilitate the matter as soon as possible, but he wasn’t sure of the outcome.

Sareth said the authorities alone cannot decide anything, as it depends on the two parties’ negotiation.

“I have received their petition. I am requesting the district governor to invite the market owner and shop owners to negotiate a solution.

“We will try to accelerate the matter to make them meet one another according to district procedure,” he said.

If a solution can’t be negotiated, shop owners said they would plan a large protest.