Prime Minister Hun Sen yesterday declared all markets in Cambodia run by private operators on the state’s behalf will be nationalised when their respective contracts end, a move he says will grant vendors a secure future.
In the latest sweeping policy move revealed on Facebook, the premier unveiled a sub-decree on the “management of markets throughout the country”.
The document extends a decision made by Hun Sen last week for vendors at Kampong Chhnang’s Phsar Leu market – where he vowed the state would take over and abolish rent in 2025 – to plazas across the entire country.
Currently on a whistle-stop tour to “solve” problems, the premier said many market traders had expressed concerns about their ownership rights and, worried about losing their stalls when contracts ended, had asked him to step in.
“It’s better to extinguish the fire than trying to disperse the smoke and to protect the rights of vendors for their next generation, to avoid bad people cheating,” wrote the premier, who called on vendors to post the edict on their stalls to avoid being cheated.
“Through this directive, the vendors will have rights for their next generation without a set date and do not have to ask for a delay of [new contracts].”
The sub-decree vests those currently trading at state-owned markets with ownership rights in perpetuity to their stalls, which can be transferred to family members or sold on.
Markets built and run by private investors on state land – or those developed by concessionaires on private land who are obligated to return the infrastructure to the state – must also respect these new protections and not evict tenants.
However, the sub-decree says vendors under private companies must continue paying their agreed-upon rent with the firm until the current contracts finish.
Once the state takes over, vendors will no longer pay rent but only state dues such as taxes, government spokesman Pay Siphan said yesterday.
“After the term of the contract with the government, when it’s over, the tenants don’t need to pay any more additional costs except state dues,” Siphan said.
Political analyst Ou Virak said the move was clearly a populist ploy, which would likely be well received among the Kingdom’s thousands of vendors.
Though noting that market operators had generally not bid for their contracts in the first place, Virak said state management may not be the best long-term option. “I don’t know how it will go in the long term and whether it will be managed properly, that could be a problem.
“It might not be sustainable . . . but maybe [Hun Sen] only cares about the short run, the next two years.”
Kampong Chhnang provincial governor Chhour Chandoeun, however, rejected the notion the announcement was in any way political.
“It’s not about gaining votes in upcoming elections, but people voted for the CPP, so the government under the ruling party must take care of people.”
Additional reporting by Shaun Turton