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Vendor crackdown underway in Phnom Penh

Balloon vendors waits for customers along Phnom Penh’s Sihanouk Boulevard yesterday.
Balloon vendors waits for customers along Phnom Penh’s Sihanouk Boulevard yesterday. Heng Chivoan

Vendor crackdown underway in Phnom Penh

Vendors are no longer allowed to sell on the capital’s busier thoroughfares, like those near the Royal Palace and Independence Monument, according to statements by Daun Penh District Governor Kouch Chamroeun yesterday.

In interviews with local TV channels posted on the official Daun Penh district Facebook page, Chamroeun said that the vendors create traffic congestion, especially in areas near tourist attractions. He also warned that gas tanks used by balloon vendors could explode, “causing accidents affecting tourists”.

As a solution, he suggested moving the vendors to other less busy locations, and maintained that police were not fining them.

“If it were Pol Pot, he’d have his own way of dealing with such a thing,” he said, in reference to repeat offenders.

However, his claims of foregoing fines were contradicted by multiple vendors yesterday.

Yart Thim, a 24-year-old who sells fried insects in front of the Royal Palace, said that the police had fined and detained him for the entire day multiple times. The fines ranged from $5 to $10, though Thim says he made about $50 to $100 a day.

“This is a convenient place where many drivers can stop and buy,” he said, explaining why he didn’t want to move.

To Chantha, a 29-year-old balloon vendor, claimed he was attacked by police with an electric baton. Chantha said police then took his money as well as his products.

“We are still struggling to earn a living peacefully because the police chase and disturb us,” Chantha said.

Fellow balloon vendor Khim Kee, 25, said she had become frightened of the police, before questioning Chamroeun’s logic for singling out balloon sellers.

“I have never heard of an explosion because of a balloon gas tank,” she said.

City Hall spokesman Mean Chanyada, meanwhile, seemed to contradict Chamroeun, saying that as long as balloon vendors respected public order they would be allowed to sell.

“But if they sell it in the street, we will call them in for education about not causing anarchy like that,” he warned.

“We are starting to prepare designated areas for people to sell goods near the Royal Palace”, he added.

A popcorn vendor, who asked to remain anonymous, said yesterday that police had already told her to sell farther from the road.

“They chase us as if we are selling drugs,” she said, stopping to help a customer driving by on a moto. “We are just selling corn in front of our house.”

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