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Street traders angered by crackdown

Street traders angered by crackdown

S TREET vendors in Phnom Penh are dismayed by a new sub-decree of the Council of Ministers which bans them from setting up stalls and selling goods in public places.

The sub-decree, issued on Aug 10 and signed by Co- Prime Ministers Norodom Ranariddh and Hun Sen, says in Article 12 : "The person who installs or carries goods to be ... sold in banned public places is warned."

Article 13 says: "Secondly, a 2,000 riel penalty will be given to a person who violates the rule."

The sub-decree is intended to attack untidyness and pollution on a wide front to promote tourism and covers not only street vendors but also such offences as throwing dead animals on the street.

The order will affect many residents in Phnom Penh who have made careers out of selling on the streets, sidewalks and public parks such goods as cigarettes and petrol.

The ban also affects small businesses set up on the sidewalks which provide haircuts or bicycle repairs etc, and other people who push small carts along the streets selling ice creams and drinks.

One vendor who requested anonymity told the Post : "I am very sad hearing the decree broadcast on TV. I survive by pushing a cart along the streets and selling little soya bean drinks to people."

She said she had no money to start-up another business, and the small amount she made from the street selling did not substantially ameliorate her extreme poverty.

A vendor off Preah Soramaridh Street Chhun Ny said her husband, who is a bodyguard in the civil service, earns only 40,000 riel per month which could only buy 30 kg of rice to feed the family of four.

Ny said she had been selling drinks, cigarettes and petrol on the sidewalk for three years earning between 1,000-2,000 riel per day to supplement the family income.

"How can my family [now] get money for daily food and household materials?" she asked.

Chief of Public Works and Transport in Khan Prampimakara district Vong Somaly said businesses running on all streets in the city were banned.

But in the interview with the Post on Sept 14 he said: "The government will temporarily allow street vendors to sell their goods on small streets, but the location [of the stall] must be close to the wall of a house. The main streets are totally banned."

Vendors report that the enforcement of the sub-decree has been arbitrary and ad hoc with them only realizing places were banned after police came and told them.

"It's such a nuisance that a small street like this is banned," one bike repairer said.

A district official from Khan Daun Penh, who requested anonymity, said it was the district governors who decided on which streets to enforce the government sub-decree.

The official was busy helping the public order police group confiscate vendors' materials along Street 51 on Aug 30, after the vendors had continued to run their businesses in defiance of the ban.

Somaly said: "The police and Khan mixed team have asked vendors not to sell on the streets. The vendors stop selling for a day or so after the police visit.

"But then they resume their businesses and persist in selling their goods in the banned places."

He said both peoples' low education and a lack of policemen working to enforce the ban had contributed to the crackdown being ineffective.

Somaly revealed three measures to subdue the street vendors: "Firstly, we just tell them not to sell on the streets.

"Secondly, one week after, if the vendors still continue their business we will penalize them.

"Thirdly, two weeks after, ... we will confiscate their goods and vending equipment and ask them to come and pay a fine.

"If they don't come to pay the fine we will sell their materials at a cheap price and the money collected will belong to the government."

Street vendors want to react against the ban but they told the Post they were scared. They asked the Post not to be named during the interviews but Chhun Ny nervously said: "I beg the government not to treat street vendors badly.

"If the government wants to eliminate this they should increase the salaries of civil servants whose families work as street vendors.

"I know that selling on the sidewalk doesn't make our country look neat but I don't know how to solve this problem because my stomach needs food."

Street vendors say they are beginning to lose hope and are worried about how they will survive because of the government's implementation of the ban.

One man who pushes a soya bean and candy cart along the streets complained that if the government wanted to keep the country tidy they must first build good streets and sewerage systems.

He said the government should also eliminate dust and stop rubbish being dumped on the streets and sidewalks. "Just stopping vendors from selling on sidewalks is not enough," he said.

He added that it was not time to imitate rich countries because the country was full of poor people who could only survive from selling on the streets.

Stall vendors also report being unable to move to new locations. "I can not move to another place because I don't know where to go," said one vendor. She complained that she could not afford to buy a stall in a market.

Other vendors reported that if they moved to a new location it may be quiet or muddy. One woman said: "I have no other place beside this. If the government finds me another profitable place I will move."

But Somaly remained unmoved by the complaints. The district chief of public works said: "We should not follow the peoples' complaints.

"To urbanize the city the government can not only follow the peoples' wishes. The people must respect law."

Fifa pulls out

WORLD soccer's governing body Fifa has postponed a series of training courses in Cambodia because of security concerns.

The courses were due to take place between Sept14-19.

A statement from Fifa to the course sponsors said: "We regret to inform you that we must postpone the courses ... due to problems of organization and security," It added that new courses were planned for next year but no date had been decided.-Reuters

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