Authorities in the Ratanakkiri provincial capital have cleared almost 160 stalls from sidewalks near the market in Banlung City after an eviction deadline passed on Sunday, police said.
More than 350 stores on the street were ordered four times since last month to relocate to a newly-constructed market, city police chief Em Vun said.
“Those vendors just ignored the deadline, which is why our city authority and police decided to remove their stores,” Mr Vun said.
Srey Sam Ath, a deputy city governor leading the operation, said police, military, military police and government officials had not used force to dismantle the stalls, which were not confiscated.
“We just politely asked the owners to remove their stalls from the state’s road because the market needs road access in case of unexpected fires,” Mr Sam Ath said.
When the company Heng Dara started to develop the market in 2008, provincial authorities temporarily relocated vendors in the existing market onto surrounding roads, he said.
“Now the market construction is 100 percent complete, and we have nice stores for these vendors to run businesses that the company will charge only $40 per year for.”
However, Phan Sokna, 45, a vendor of vegetables, said that city authorities and security forces dismantled one of his stalls and confiscated another to the city government office.
“Those joint forces were so violent,” Mr Sokna said, adding that many of the vendors who were temporarily moved from the former market to the streets could not afford to move into the replacement market.
“When the new market is finished, the company will sell the stores at a high price that is beyond our capacity,” he said.
Another vendor, Chan Ry, said that 1.5-by-2-meter stores in the middle of lines cost $5,000 to $8,000, while 3.5-by-4-meter stores at the front or on corners cost $40,000 to $50,000.
“We poor vendors have been cheated repeatedly by the market chief who kicked us out of the market to build a new one on the old location,” Mr Ry said.
A group of vendors approached the company to buy stalls and were told to wait while in the meantime these sold out, he said. “Now our stores have been removed and we have no new place to start our businesses.”
Chheam Rom, 47, a fish paste vendor, said that hundreds of vendors had filed complaints with the provincial and city governors, but there was no resolution.
“We need the authority to let us continue selling somewhere else apart from inside the newly-constructed market that is overcrowded with vendors,” she said.
A representative for Heng Dara was unavailable yesterday, while local authorities said they were unaware of stall prices.