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,"
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
"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
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.