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Sihanoukville vendors vow to hold out as food stalls on beaches removed

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The stall owners on January 8 protested to request for solutions before dismantling stalls. Supplied

Sihanoukville vendors vow to hold out as food stalls on beaches removed

Preah Sihanouk provincial authority on Wednesday began dismantling stalls along Ariston and Otres beaches, more than a month after issuing an ultimatum.

Provincial governor Y Sok Leng said 90 per cent of the stalls had been knocked down, while the remaining at Otres will be levelled in the coming days.

“Our more than 300 village guards did not destroy their stalls by force. We informed the vendors more than a month beforehand. And before we came today, some of them had already voluntarily dismantled them,” he said.

Sok Leng said police and Military Police were also deployed to maintain security during the dismantling operation, in which 35 trucks and equipment were used.

“For some materials that were still usable such as wood and tents, we allowed the vendors to take them home. Others were just dismantled.

“We need to beautify the beaches because they are for the public and do not belong to any individual. We just want the beaches to have a good environment and become clean again so local and international tourists can relax there.

“If we let vendors sell at the venue in a disorderly manner, the beaches will be spoiled and littered,” he said.

After the cleanup, the vendors requested the provincial administration to issue a standardised stall plan for them instead of banning their business entirely.

Provincial coordinator for rights group Adhoc Cheap Sotheary told The Post on Wednesday that there were 105 stalls along Ariston and 62 at Otres.

She said the vendors had run their businesses there for many years and followed procedures outlined by the authorities in the previous mandates.

Ty Ean, a vendor at Otres beach, told The Post on Wednesday that he and other vendors at Otres would not move out.

He said the vendors wanted to meet the authorities for a solution acceptable to all parties.

“I’ll resume my business here even if the authorities stopped us. Now they are getting closer to dismantling our stalls, but I won’t move.

“We’ve submitted a letter to the Ministry of Interior but it referred our request to the provincial administration,” he said.

Affiliated Network for Social Accountability executive director San Chey said on Wednesday that the authorities should not remove vendors’ stalls as their informal business also contributed to the economy.

He said their business also helped to attract tourists to the beaches because of the low food prices.

“If the authorities think the vendors’ stalls make the beaches untidy, they should instead find a way to tackle rubbish and clean up the environment.

“They should not remove the vendors because their informal business is crucial to society and contributes a lot to the country’s economy,” he said.

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