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Stall owners protest 'profiteering' B'bang investment company

Stall owners protest 'profiteering' B'bang investment company

Vendors at a market in Battambang claim that an investment company repairing the market is forcing them to sell and buy back their stalls

 MARKET MONEY

In an increasing trend throughout the country, companies such as the Kim Hoc Heng company are buying out markets to repair and sell back to shop owners at an inflated price, leaving many stall owners with nowhere to sell except the street.

THOUSANDS of vendors from Battambang's Mong Russei market have reacted with anger to an investment plan they claim will force them to move to a new market at substantial personal  expense, market officials told the Post Thursday.

According to Reun Ra, the market's representative, tensions began after Chiv Battambang Cheak (CBC), which plans to develop the site, set up a fence around the market on December 31.

"CBC built a fence [around the market] and told us to move to the new market. Then, they ordered us to buy a new shop while they repaired this one," she said.

"They did this without telling sellers, who have the right to know because they have rented this market from the district governor since 1992," she added.

Yim Sary, a vendor, said he was told they would be required to sell and buy back their stalls during the move at a profit to the company if they wished to return to their regular selling spot.

"We rent the market from the district governor now and do not earn enough money to invest such capital. Now, they want us to buy a new shop and give our old shops to them, and after they finish construction they will sell them back to us, but we are not crazy," he said.

Reun Ra said the new market has only 100 shops compared with 500 at the old one, forcing vendors to compete with each other if they want space.  

"We really haven't got money to buy the new shop. They want to increase poor people's standard of living, but it will decrease their standard of living instead," she added.  

'It's up to the company'

Long Som, governor of Mong Russei district, blamed vendors for not cooperating in discussions about the investment, and said investors should be left alone to do what they have been given permission to do.  

"We invited [vendors] to come to the provincial office to negotiate the problem, but they did not come and said we wanted to close the market," he said.

"It's up to the company who comes to invest in this market.  We are not responsible. We have never got any money from the vendors," he added.

Chiv Kok Cheak, director of CBC, denied that vendors would be required to sell and buy back their stalls.

"[The vendors] don't understand our plan," he said. 

"At first, there were 460 vendors who agreed to move, but later I don't know why they changed their minds," he added.

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