A group of civil society organisations (CSOs) have called on the government, relevant ministries and institutions to provide assistance for street vendors in urban areas and improve their social protection.

In a joint statement on November 14, the Independent Democracy of Informal Economy Association (IDEA) and seven others CSOs asked municipal and provincial authorities to provide suitable locations for street vendors.

The government, they said, should consider policies practiced in neighbouring countries as they face similar challenges. One good approach would be to set up a pilot project in a specific location for them to do business, they said.

The CSOs also requested that the government provide vendors with training on hygiene and street food sales for improved food safety.

“Authorities should consider incentive policies and legal norms to encourage effective participation,” they said, adding it is also essential to ensure proper waste collection and that street vendors have access to clean water.

They also called on the government to provide legal protection for street vendors to protect them from abuse and exploitation. This protection is also important to achieve Cambodia’s sustainable development goals, they said.

“The government and relevant ministries should provide social protection through the provision of a social security fund,” said the statement.

IDEA president Vorn Pov said that since 2007, his association has been working to improve general working conditions, including social protection for street vendors, to include them in social protection policies as well as promote the social security act to expand the scope of their protection under this law as well.

“Currently, IDEA has been coordinating the training and mobilisation of street vendors in Phnom Penh and 22 provinces to initiate dialogue with relevant institutions to gain more recognition of their rights. It’s to enable them to access social protection and decent living conditions,” he said.

Government spokesman Phay Siphan said on November 14 that CSOs should meet with municipal and provincial authorities to discuss possible places for them to sell.

“It is related to the local administration, which knows where to set up a market, except for state markets which have for a long time required vendors to pay taxes. It must be under the local authority. They should contact each municipal and provincial administration to negotiate a suitable place for them to do their business,” he said.

Siphan said the livelihood issue is related to the area where they live, which means that the poor have to go and fill in the poverty declaration form because they are in the informal economy.

“If they are truly poor, the government is not only responsible for health issues but also other things, we only have the unity or Red Cross mechanism to facilitate with emergencies for some time, but not in a long run which we don’t have,” he said.