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Vendors despair after blaze ravages Kratie town market

Vendors despair after blaze ravages Kratie town market

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Vendors, who lost their markets stalls in a fire in Kratie town, demonstrate outside the Prime Minister’s Phnom Penh home yesterday.

An estimated 60 to 70 percent of goods and stalls [in the market] were completely destroyed by fire

About 400 stalls at Kratie town’s market burned down yesterday in a blaze that vendors, many of whom have lost thousand of dollars worth of goods, fear could have been deliberately lit.

Military police chief of Kratie province Keo Chea said the fire started at about 12.45am yesterday and was extinguished by 8am with the help of two police fire engines and local residents.

“An estimated 60 to 70 percent of goods and stalls were completely destroyed by fire, but some of goods were taken from the fire in time,” he said.

Police, said Keo Chea, assume it was an electrical fire, as the market was closed when it began. “The authorities need to find a new place and build temporary stalls for them to sell. We will clean up this market again,” he added.

Some vendors, however, believe the blaze was arson and travelled to Phnom Penh yesterday to ask for Hun Sen’s help.

A representative for the stallholders, Ung Kimphoeun, said yesterday that the fire was started deliberately – rather than due to electric faults  – as the market’s electricity supply was turned off at night.

Ung Kimphoeun, who lost an estimated US$50,000 worth of goods from his clothes stall in the fire, asked Prime Minister Hun Sen for help to build a new market and find the suspected culprits.

“We haven’t asked for help from the local authority because they have never solved the vendors’ problems,” he explained.

Tearful vendor Prak Chhroeun, who estimated she lost around US$10,000, said no one could help besides the Prime Minster. “Someone set fire to the market,” she said.

Chae Samath, Kratie town governor, said yesterday that vendors did not have to ask for intervention from Phnom Penh as the provincial authorities were finding them a temporary home – perhaps on land owned by tycoon Thai Bun Rong.

Hun Sen’s cabinet accepted the vendors’ submission for a new market.

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