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Sihanoukville takes a breather from market brouhaha

Sihanoukville takes a breather from market brouhaha

Market stallholders at Sihanoukville's Psar Leu are continuing to trade as usual,

defying pressure to move into a new market nearby.

Vendors celebrated their temporary reprieve from eviction with a Buddhist ceremony

at the old market on the evening of May 29 and again the following morning.

A three-day strike from May 21 brought business to a halt with vendors saying they

couldn't afford the up-front fees to rent space at the Sihanoukville Trade Center,

known locally as Psar Leu Thmey or Psar Thom.

About a week after the strike, Men Saman, a CPP member of the National Assembly,

traveled to Sihanoukville asking the vendors to keep quiet and remain at the old

market, said a vendor on May 29, asking not to be named.

No information was given to the stallholders about the process to find a solution

to the market standoff or how long it might take, leaving vendors feeling concerned

and powerless.

"I feel afraid someone will come and confiscate my shop," said a goldsmith.

While most vendors told the Post they were waiting to see how events unfold before

committing to the new market, a watchmaker said they would work together to upgrade

the old market if authorities allow them to stay.

Chhun Sirun, the first deputy governor of Sihanoukville, said on June 2 that the

municipality had never told stallholders to move to the new market.

However, a letter from the Sihanoukville municipality published in Rasmei Kampuchea

on May 14 and signed by the governor, Say Hak, promoted 50-year leases at the new

market and told "vendors who sell at the old Psar Leu, [you] have two months

starting on June 1 until July 31, 2004" to register.

"It was not the same as a normal advertisement because it had a signature from

Sihanoukville municipality and the number of the letter," said the watchmaker,

who heard a similar announcement repeatedly broadcast on radio 100.5 on May 14.

Chhun Sirun was reluctant to comment further on the market standoff in case he contradicted

a working group set up to deal with the issue.

Sirun said all decisions about Psar Leu are now the responsibility of a group comprising

of representatives from the Council of Ministers, Ministry of Interior and the Ministry

of Economy and Finance.

Despite repeated attempts, the Post could not contact the working group or Men Saman.

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