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Night Market owner defiant

Night Market owner defiant

The controversial Siem Reap Night Market was forced to close earlier this week in response to complaints that it was blocking a busy thoroughfare. Its owner has vowed to fight the closure.

Siem Reap Province

THE owner of the Siem Reap Night Market is pledging to fight a decision that saw his upstart market closed down after competing vendors complained he was siphoning business and clogging a main thoroughfare.

Provincial officials ordered owner Huy Leng to shut his night market in Siem Reap town this week, bowing to complaints from rival businesses. But Huy Leng said Thursday he plans to petition authorities to reopen the market with the support of his vendors.

He said 27 of his vendors took back their US$300 stall deposits after news of the closure came this week. But 20 have returned the money, he said.

“The people believe that I can win this case,” Huy Leng said. “I didn’t pressure them to do this. I told them that if they don’t trust me, they can take their money back. If they trust me, they can support me and demand permission to sell in the same place.”

Huy Leng erected the night market earlier this year on a busy thoroughfare beside Pub Street, charging vendors US$50 per month – less than half of what competing markets charged, he said.

But public outcry from many nearby businesses forced the closure, with local authorities saying that provincial officials had not yet approved the market.

Huy Leng said the closure is hurting not only him but several people with disabilities whom he had employed as masseuses.

“I am in a really difficult position right now,” he said. “Since the market closed, more than 20 disabled people are jobless. I am helping to support them.”

But Lim Nam, owner of the competing Angkor Night Market, said it wouldn’t be fair if authorities allowed the Siem Reap Night Market to reopen on a public street that lies roughly 100 metres away from his stalls.

“When I started here three years ago, this town was quiet. I spent thousands of dollars to advertise to attract customers,” Lim Nam said. “It would be dishonest competition if authorities gave [Huy Leng] the right to sell on public space.”

Provincial officials who ordered the Siem Reap Night Market shut, however, said little on the issue Thursday.

Bun Tharith, deputy governor and spokesman for Siem Reap province, referred questions to Governor Sou Phirin, who could not be reached for comment Thursday.