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Rebuilding Phsar Leu

Rebuilding Phsar Leu

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Kelly Hussey-Smith

After the fire, repair work is starting

Sihanoukville-As vendors at the burned out Phsar Leu market continued to sift through

the rubble this week, more help came from the capital as Prime Minister Hun Sen increased

the amount the government would give them for rebuilding to $300,000. The government

funds are supposed to pay for a new roof. The bulk of the rebuilding remains the

responsibility of the vendors. Ninety percent of the market's 1,125 stalls were gutted

and destroyed by fire on Jan. 2 .

Soueng Huy, 44, a food vendor at the market, said businesses were price gouging as

the vendors try to rebuild. "The price of timber has risen because of the sudden

increase in demand so some families cannot currently afford to rebuild their shops.

I am very worried about the increase in poverty in Sihanoukville," he said.

As it is high season for tourists in Sihanoukville, the municipality was warning

vendors to keep the site clean.

Representatives of the municipality, engineers and vendors met at the site of the

fire early in the week to discuss reconstruction strategies. They said the rebuilding

will take three months.

Sihanoukville Governor Say Hak said the government provided a bulldozer to help clear

space where the vendors can temporarily resume business. "We cannot help the

vendors completely, but at least we can help them regain their businesses,"

said Hak.

Although an investigation into the fire is still underway, led by Say Hak , the municipal

authorities say the fire was an accident, caused by cooking coals left alight inside

the market.

"A fire started in a similar fashion once before in the market, but was caught

before any major damage was done," said Hak.

Many market vendors said they believe the fire was caused by arson in order to force

them into the more expensive Sihanoukville Trade Centre located behind Phsar Leu

market.

Sites at the new Trade Center can be had for $4,000 to $12,000 for various length

leases and sizes. The old market charged between $3,000 and $10,000 for a site.

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