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City battles footpath business

City battles footpath business

shop2.jpg
shop2.jpg

Sisowath Quay's footpath, cluttered with cookers, foodstalls and tables

AL FRESCO dining and shopping along the riverfront may be a thing of the past after

a Phnom Penh Municipality decision to clear the footpaths in the area of all chairs,

tables and market stalls.

On June 14, Kong Rith, the chief of the Psah Kandal 1 sector (Sangkat), the area

which covers the riverfront, issued instructions to all businesses there to remove

chairs, tables and other obstructions from sidewalks.

Kong Rith said the plan had been in the pipeline for some time.

Pok Kosal, 2nd deputy governor of Khan Daun Penh, said most of Sisowath Boulevard

would be cleared of obstructions on the footpath, including cars parked at the doors

of restaurants.

He said the decision was made to allow pedestrians to be able to walk safely on footpaths

rather than the current situation, where walkers zig-zag from footpath to the road

to footpath to avoid the many obstructions.

He also said the tables and chairs spoiled the view of the river front, and market

and food stalls generated rubbish which was unsanitary and an eyesore.

However, he said he realizes the crackdown is going to be hard to enforce and believes

that people will take their tables and chairs inside or pack up their stalls when

they see a police patrol, but once it has passed they will open for business again.

He said he thought there might be some room for leniency, but only for the minor

cases.

"We understand that our people are still poor and in some places we will close

our eyes [to their activities] but only for those places which are still suitable

for walking space," he said.

He also said that on minor streets people could put out tables and chairs, but only

across a third of the pavement.

He said people who ignored the ban would be fined 50,000 riel the first time; the

second time the fine would be doubled and the third time tripled.

The move has not been welcomed by businesses in the area.

On July 1 about 23 representatives of the restaurants and clothing shops approached

the authorities and suggested that they be allowed to use half the footpath for business

and promised to keep the other half clear. Their offer was rejected.

Business owners spoken to by the Post had a mixed reaction to the crackdown. One

restaurant owner said he thought it a bad idea because tourists enjoyed eating outdoors.

He said he believed that the municipal authorities' real reason for the crackdown

was that they had been bribed by people who ran stalls on the river bank so that

customers would move over there.

Another restaurateur said he thought clearing some of the pavement for pedestrians

was a good move, but suggested the municipal authorities started by moving the cars

that parked right across the footpath in front of some of the more expensive restaurants.

He did not see that happening.

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