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Rein in market thuggery: PM

Visitors peruse stalls at one of the entrances to Phnom Penh’s Central Market
Visitors peruse stalls at one of the entrances to Phnom Penh’s Central Market. Vireak Mai

Rein in market thuggery: PM

Prime Minister Hun Sen yesterday took a stand against intimidation and harassment at markets, ordering municipal and provincial governors to crack down on aggressive fee collectors they employ.

Speaking at a graduation ceremony at the capital’s Royal School of Administration, Hun Sen distanced himself from what he said were the strong-arm tactics of licensed collectors, adding that many people erroneously thought they worked for the ruling Cambodian People’s Party.

“One collector kicked a basket of goods owned by a vendor,” he said. “People then accused Hun Sen. We have to oversee the behaviour of these collectors to ensure we’re taking care of vendors.”

Phnom Penh governor Pa Socheatvong should take a lead in overseeing the conduct of fee collectors, Hun Sen said. “Customers and vendors are strongly insulted by the harassment,” he said.

The taxes expected of vendors varies between markets, but fee collectors often demand payment on items sold and taxes for security and sanitation at markets.

Despite Hun Sen’s efforts to distance himself from market thuggery, some vendors at Phnom Penh’s Central Market will remember intimidation they complained of in July when security guards allegedly blocked them from leaving the market to join a rally welcoming back opposition leader Sam Rainsy from self-exile.

Vendors said security guards also intimidated those sporting any kind of Cambodia National Rescue Party merchandise. Central Market chief Pon Dany denied the claims at the time.

A 44-year-old vendor at Phnom Penh’s Samaki Market who asked not to be named, said yesterday that those selling goods outside the market were often harassed but there were few problems inside.

“Outside, if the vendor has not sold anything and the collectors come to demand money, it can lead to an argument,” the vendor said.

Independent analyst Chea Vannath said conflict between vendors and collectors would remain while there were no set prices on public services. “I think there should be a billboard at the entrance of each market for transparency – then there is no longer any dispute,” she said.

Municipal spokesman Long Dimanche said City Hall was preparing to respond to the problem.

“We are working to introduce measures to oversee the issues at markets in accordance with the recommendations,” he said.

Dimanche declined to comment on how many companies or individuals operated as fee collectors at markets or how much revenue their practices generated.

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