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Street vendors kicked off the kerb in Phnom Penh

Local vendors gather at Phnom Penh’s Hun Sen Park yesterday to petition against the ban on vendors occupying public streets and parks.
Local vendors gather at Phnom Penh’s Hun Sen Park yesterday to petition against the ban on vendors occupying public streets and parks. Photo supplied

Street vendors kicked off the kerb in Phnom Penh

City Hall yesterday renewed a call to enforce a ban on vendors occupying public streets and parks in the capital, with a group of nearly 40 sellers based near the Council of Ministers headquarters responding with a petition to the municipality opposing the move.

Takeo native Nhor Sok Kea, 37, who sells sugar cane juice on the strip of public park in front of the council, said that she and 36 other petitioners have been working there for nearly five years with permission from the Prampi Makara district governor. Sok Kea claimed that until a recent increase in the number of vendors at the park, there hadn’t been a problem.

“First, we sold normally, but recently, the number of vendors doubled and caused turmoil at the location, and that’s why the authorities do not let us to sell there [anymore],” she said.

Sok Kea and several other vendors acknowledged the arguments regarding hygiene, safety, public order and traffic congestion put forth by Phnom Penh Governor Khoung Sreng in calling for their removal, but asked the city to at least help them find an acceptable place to do business.

For 38-year-old fried noodle vendor Las Leakhena, the government has a responsibility for the loss of livelihood for the vendors. “We do not have a choice, therefore the authorities should help us,” she said.

The Prampi Makara district governor could not be reached yesterday, but City Hall spokesman Met Measpheakdey said he knew nothing of the governor issuing permission to the sellers. He did say, however, that authorities are currently discussing alternatives for the street vendors.

He also said the ban would be enforced for all public parks citywide and, initially, along 11 major thoroughfares throughout the city.

“We issued the announcement last month for all 12 districts to take measures to liberate the public roads from the street sellers and the people using sidewalks for running private businesses,” he said.

Acknowledging past failures at meaningfully implementing such a ban throughout the city, Measpheakdey maintained it would work this time, with implementation rolled out in phases.

San Chey, executive director of the Affiliated Network for Social Accountability, noted that vendors and other parties did bear some responsibility for clogging public streets, but added that authorities should be opening a dialogue to find a proper place for vendors to do business.

“Otherwise this problem remains a repeated problem,” he said.

Ear Chariya, founder of the Road Safety Institute, said the city’s lack of infrastructure planning as the number of cars on the road has increased yearly, plus a lack of public parking, is all part of the problem.

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