PRIME Minister Hun Sen has ordered that 15 stalls built in a controversial location at the main market in Preah Sihanouk province be demolished.
The premier gave the order after visiting Psar Leu in Sihanoukville on Saturday night and Sunday morning. His intervention followed protests from vendors at the market who said the new stalls restricted access to the market.
The chief of Commune Four in Sihanoukville, Khoun Sarun, said the rebuilding of the market following a 2008 fire had just recently been completed. She credited the premier with contributing US$400,000 to the effort, which led to the construction of 1,100 stalls.
She said the 15 stalls in question had been constructed outside the market zone.
"The authorities built more stalls outside the market, and people objected to that," she said. "Now the prime minister has ordered them to be removed."
Victory for vendors
Sok Cheat, 37, who sells groceries at the market, said vendors went to protest outside Hun Sen's Preah Sihanouk residence after hearing he was staying there.
"We knew he was here so we wanted to meet him, because the extra stalls built at Psar Leu had made the area too narrow," Sok Cheat said.
Rice seller Hau Leang applauded Hun Sen's intervention.
"I was crying all day and night because I couldn't make money selling rice inside the market," she said, explaining that stalls built in the parking lot had effectively cut off access to her own stall.
"Some customers just stopped outside to buy their food."
Sbong Sarath, the governor of Preah Sihanouk province, could not be contacted Sunday. The deputy chief of Hun Sen's Cabinet, Lim Leang Se, said he was in Phnom Penh and did not know about the order.