The $4.2 million renovation project, which has been funded by the French government, will take some two years to complete.
The French ambassador and Phnom Penh Govenor Kep Chuktema throw jasmine on Thursday to symbolically start renovations.
DESPITE the visible trappings of construction work - including huge scaffolds that have plunged the area around Phnom Penh's Central Market into traffic chaos - having been present for weeks, the 74-year-old structure's US$4.2 million renovation officially began Thursday with a ceremony at the site.
"It is for you all," Kep Chuktema, governor of Phnom Penh, told vendors and gathered dignitaries Thursday at the ceremony to launch construction work in earnest.
The landmark Central Market is the first Phnom Penh market to have its own board of directors, organised by Phnom Penh Municipality, which will manage the market and work with vendors, he said.
Under the terms of the grant - which came from the French Development Agency (AFD) - the market will be renovated by French contractor Arte Villa Pare in cooperation with KOSAN, a French company, Kep Chuktema said.
The plan is to renovate and modernise the market, which has become dilapidated with old age. Originally built in 1935, the market was designed by French architects.
[central market] is continuing to become as famous as it used to be
"Central Market is an example for all other markets in Phnom Penh," Kep Chuktema said. "All the revenue made from charging vendors is not for my own use. It is for use in repairing the market and paving the roads and putting public lights in [the surrounding] Daun Penh district," he added.
"The market will continue to be as famous as it used to be," he said, adding that the new renovation will allow the market to stay open 24 hours because of new night security.
Eric Beugnot, director of AFD, said he was proud to be working on a market with so much history.
"I want to build a beautiful and modern market in the heart of the city in response to an increasing population of municipal dwellers and market vendors," he said.
Kep Chuktema said that once construction was finished, likely in 2010, the market would adopt the slogan: "If one does not know Phsar Thmey, one does not know Phnom Penh."
Vendors ‘very happy'
"The vendors are very happy with the new renovations because they will have new stalls and wider carparks," Central Market chief Sok Kimheng said. "However, the price will increase around 10 percent after the project is completed," he added.
Sok Leap, a souvenir seller at the market, said she was a bit concerned the construction, which would last two years, would impact her revenue.
"I don't know clearly how much they will increase the price of a stall," she said, adding that she was worried people would go to another market in the meantime.