Vegetable, meat and fruit sellers with stalls adjoining the bustling Russian Market in Phnom Penh are likely to be forced to close shop this month as local authorities push forward with plans to relocate the fresh market to a new site in neighboring Boeung Trabek commune.
After more than a decade selling meat and produce alongside Phnom Penh’s sprawling Russian Market, hundreds of vendors at Phsar Kromoun are being forced to move and fear business will plummet as buyers refuse to navigate the crowded, narrow roads to the new site.
Local authorities in Toul Tompoung I commune have told the fresh market’s 380-odd vendors they will be required to relocate to new nearby grounds by mid-May because stalls were spilling onto the street and causing traffic problems.
The move would be the latest in a series of market shifts over the past several years, upsetting commerce in some of the capital’s key commercial districts as vendors are forced into new stalls, often with higher rents.
Work has been underway on a new market site about 200 meters from Russian Market, or Toul Tompoung Market – a popular tourist attraction – since December last year.
But while the shift to the 12,000-square-meter “New Boeung Trabek Market” in neighboring Beoung Trabek commune is unlikely to cause major commuting problems, vendors are still up in arms.
Chea Chang, a 57-year-old fruit seller who set up at Phsar Kromoun about a year ago, told the Post on a recent afternoon that the thought of having to move had upset her stomach.
“Why do I have to move? I don’t want to go to another place,” she said. “I am very worried about my business because I’m always having to move from one place to another.”
Pe Srey, 52, of Kandal province, has been selling vegetables at Phsar Kromoun for more than 10 years and said she resents being told where and when he must move.
“Even though they might kill me or give me a big settlement for leaving here, I still reject the idea of moving to the new marketplace. I will find another market to sell at,” she said.
Srey said it would be difficult to sell vegetables at Boeung Trabek because it was farther from the homes of her regular customers.
Lai Kongsavuth, the manager of New Boeung Trabek Market, insisted that vendors were under no pressure to open stalls at the new center.
“I’m not going to force them…. There are many vendors from other markets who want to sell at this market,” he said.
Toul Tompoung I commune chief Chheng Chheak “requested” in a March 17 letter that vendors at Phsar Kromoun shift to the new marketplace “in order to make … a good social environment.”
“They cannot reject the move because we have never allowed them to sell on the road anyway, and they are doing business on a public road,” Chheak told the Post by phone.
The vice president of Phnom Penh Municipality, Pa Socheatvong, said on April 28 he knew nothing of the proposed relocation of vendors.