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Govt to broker deal in Takeo market dispute

Govt to broker deal in Takeo market dispute

090804_05
Tonloab market vendors protest in front of Hun Sen’s house on Sunday.

Officials from Hun Sen's office instruct vendors to cease protests in return for new negotiations.

VENDORS from Takeo province who travelled to the Kandal province home of Prime Minister Hun Sen on Saturday to protest a dispute with a market owner were heading home Monday after meeting with officials from Hun Sen's office who promised to solve the problem.

The vendors had previously worked at Tonloab market in Takeo's Prea Bat Chonchum commune, Kirivong district, about 13 kilometres from the Vietnamese border. They claim that the owner of the market told them to leave their stalls while they underwent maintenance work, only to put them up for sale at a higher price when they returned.

Bun Theng, one of around 130 vendors who arrived in Phnom Penh on Saturday, said that representatives of Hun Sen had promised to broker a meeting with the Takeo provincial governor to settle the issue. "We would not have left if they had not made that promise," he said.

Protesters set up in front of Hun Sen's Takhmao residence in Kandal province after walking the 30 kilometres from Takeo to Kandal when provincial authorities confiscated seven vans the vendors had rented for the trip, they said.

Govt to handle negotiations
Lim Leang Se, deputy chief of Hun Sen's Cabinet, claimed that the government would handle negotiations between the market owner, local officials and the displaced merchants, and that the dispute has now been resolved.

"The people agreed to go back home because we settled their problem," he said. "We are giving the rights back to them so they can sell at their old places."

Some protesters, however, remained sceptical.

"I don't believe [the government] 100 percent yet. I think they just encouraged us to go back home because it looked bad to have us protesting in front of the prime minister's house," said Nhen Pros, one of the vendors. "How can we sell at the same place if they've constructed new shops already?"

Kirivong district Governor Tek Songlim was accused last week of threatening one of the vendors' representatives at gunpoint, attempting to dissuade the group from travelling to Kandal. On Monday, the governor said his office had sent a letter to the vendors informing them that that they can return to their old location once construction is finished.

Tonloab market owner Ung Rithea could not be reached for comment Monday.

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