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King suggests plan to end market row

King suggests plan to end market row

H IS Majesty King Norodom Sihanouk has suggested a compromise to resolve the

long-running Olympic Market dipuste.

The King suggested developers Thai

Boon Roong give over half the building to vendors from the existing market for

free, while TBR could sell stalls in the other half of the building at commecial

rates. The new market was finished five months ago but has been unable to open

because of the bitter dispute between vendors and TBR.

As the Post went

to press there was no clear response to the King's plan from TBR, or its head

Theng Boon Ma, a Sino-Khmer who carries a Thai passport.

Speaking on

condition of anonymity one of his aides told the Post that the company was not

aware nor invited to attend an audience with the King.

The aide said

that the company offered a 10 percent discount on the monthly stall fee to

former stall-holders.

However, he said the company could not satisfy them

though TBR had agreed to lower rental prices by $1,000, drop requirements for a

deposit, give interest free loans and ensure the right to transfer stalls to

other people.

He said "Our company has already made a lot of concessions,

but the traders are still not happy. We don't know what they want."

The

King said when addressing a public audience on land ownership on April 12: "It

is my opinion that TBR should give you half of the building now. TBR can also

enjoy the benefit because they can start business now without waiting to be a

winner or loser in court."

He said the dispute should not be settled

through the courts but should be sorted out on the basis of

compromise.

He told former stall-holders: "In principle you will

obviously win the lawsuits, but in practice your business will lose."

The

public audience was attended by government officials, provincial authorities and

representatives of former stall-holders.

The King repeatedly made it

clear that he did not interfere in the disputes between the Royal Government and

TBR saying: "I only reign, not govern", as expressed in the

Constitution.

The old Olympic Market lot was put under contract between

Phnom Penh Municipality and TBR to build a more fashionable market complex in

1991.

Construction was finished in November last year when TBR announced

it would give 15 year leases on the stalls at the complex for between $6,000 and

$20,000.

Former stall-holders have repeatedly demanded they be given free

stalls in the new market claiming that they have ownership rights over the lot

because they have occupied the land and run stalls there since 1980.

There are 4,000 stalls in the new market, and 1,951 former

stall-holders, so under the King's compromise plan each of them could acquire a

stall for free.

At the audience, Sam Rainsy, minister of economics and

finance, said the new market would not be allowed to open its doors unless TBR

improves the building's safety and hygiene standards.

He briefed the

public audience on the results of investigations into technical aspects of the

premises by Minister of State Van Molyvann.

Rainsy said that Molyvann

had found "many instances where building standards had not been respected, for

example: fire prevention facilities were inadequate, the stairs were too narrow,

there were too many stalls and the roof has to be replaced with

zinc."

The King asked Rainsy to stop being tough with TBR suggesting that

the market be immediately opened and that any technical faults could be

corrected later.

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