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Vendors fight for right to stay put

Transport vehicles, food stalls and people crowd the  front of Phnom Penh’s O'Russey Market
Transport vehicles, food stalls and people crowd the front of Phnom Penh’s O'Russey Market yesterday afternoon. Pha Lina

Vendors fight for right to stay put

Food vendors at Phnom Penh’s O’Russey Market have fought and won a battle against eviction.

On Friday, about 80 vendors, including some who have sold food at the market since 1997, were told to clear out of what has become a heavily congested parking lot outside the premises.

“Where do we sell when we have sold here for so long and we have regular customers?” said one female vendor who did not give her name yesterday.

District governor Som Sovann said many people were pleased with the authorities’ decision to order out the vendors, who sell items including rice, noodles and coconut.

“Most people around the market are happy, because the roads are wider and now have space for pedestrians,” he said.

But vendors were complaining that they had paid $40 to sell outside the market for the whole year and were being evicted without a refund just a few months into it.

Some told the Post they were willing to march to City Hall in protest if officials did not find them a replacement site.

Leng Kimsong, the market’s deputy chief, said the vendors had paid money to the parking lot’s management, not directly to the market’s bosses.

“Now we are explaining to both the parking lot owner and the sellers about public order,” he said.

Kimsong announced later that vendors would be allowed to come back, provided they were more orderly and only sold “hygienic” food.

“They can come back tonight,” he said.

Sovann said earlier that authorities intended to beautify the parking lot area for customers and increase parking space.

Earlier this month, city governor Pa Socheatvong introduced new uniforms for market tax collectors around the capital, a response to Prime Minister Hun Sen’s calls for officials to rein in market thuggery and make life easier for vendors.

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