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Vendors protest amid market closure on national holidays

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Vendors stand in protest against the closure of Phnom Penh’s Ekreach II market coinciding with the Coronation Day on Monday. Photo supplied

Vendors protest amid market closure on national holidays

Some100 vendors at Ekreach II market in the capital’s Chom Chao III commune, in Por Sen Chey district, gathered on Monday morning after the market manager closed its gate and banned them from selling goods on national holidays.

Chom Chao III commune chief Va Savoeun told The Post on Monday that he mediated between market owner Prom Sothy and the vendors that morning, but couldn’t reach a solution as Sothy did not appear in person.

“I spent the whole morning until noon and no solution was found because the market owner did not come. [He] sent a representative who could not reasonably discuss with [the vendors] and has no right to make a decision,” said Savoeun.

Savoeun said Sothy increased administrative expenses for security and sanitation. The vendors agreed to the five-dollar fee increase, but objected to the national holiday closures, leading to the protests. Following the backlash, Sothy refused the vendors’ money.

“The vendors agreed to pay the price set by the market owner and now he is angry with them and [continues] to close the market on national holidays."

“Sothy believes on such days, the market workers and cleaners also need to have the day off. The main customers for this market are factory workers. When the market closes on holidays, the vendors tend to lose a lot of business,” he said.

The district and commune authorities, Savoeun said, had mediated in the past, but the market manager continues to break his promises to resolve the conflict.

“The shops at Ekreach II market have just been [purchased]. The vendors bought the shops with legal documents. [They] purchased the shops in this market because they see [it] connected with a clean water system and electricity."

“However, now on holidays, the market is closed and the vendors cannot open their shops, so how can they run their businesses?” Savoeun asked.

Savoeun said vendors used to file complaints with the district and commune authorities to seek a resolution, but Sothy never attended in person.

“I think the vendors are right because [they] have paid the fees set by the market [owner] already. But, why is the market closed on [all] holidays? It wasn’t closed except on the main national holidays,” said Savoeun.

Ekreach II market manager Seang said the security and sanitation service fees caused the protest. The vendors originally did not agree to the five-dollar fee increase, not understanding the expense and the fact that the market has consistently raised security and sanitation workers’ salaries.

“For nearly six years, the market has never increased [service] fees and when the market asked [for] five dollars, they protested."

“Later on, there was a meeting to seek a solution. But, before the meeting, the market owner said he had thought clearly before increasing the fees by five dollars to support [the services] because five dollars cannot help much with the market expense, as the market loses money annually."

“This is because [the vendors] do not understand. Before this problem occurred, I tried to explain to them the many reasons. They said they understood the problem and are willing to pay [the additional fees], but now the market owner [is refusing payment],” said Seang.

He said as the final decision after the protest, the market owner will hand the property to the vendors to control. The market owner will stop managing the market by the end of October.

A representative of the Ekreach II market vendors, who wished to remain anonymous, told The Post on Monday that Sothy has not solved the problem. He instead sent Seang and said he will hand the market to the vendors to manage by the end of October.

“In the past, the market manager closed the market three times, including on October 29. The market owner has not reached a solution with us and we asked to meet him, but he refuses."

“He only sent a representative who made the final decision – they will give the market to the vendors to manage,” she said.

She said that Seang’s decision was verbal and not legally binding. Sothy ordered Seang to close the market gate and banned vendors from selling their goods on Monday, Coronation Day.

There are 176 shops in the market and Sothy’s decision on it remaining open on holidays after handing control to the vendors remains unknown.

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