Embassies and Vendors Cluttering Sidewalks

Taking a stroll down a Phnom Penh street often is not easy. The sidewalk is usually crowded with vendors and parked cars; some places are completely blocked off with ropes or chains, particularly near foreign embassies.

At Monday’s weekly municipal Cabinet meeting, city officials discussed ways to clear these nuisances and make Phnom Penh’s streets more pedestrian-friendly.

Sidewalks in Phnom Penh aren’t as bustling as those in other developed countries, so many people take advantage of the space to sell their wares, while hotels and restaurants use the main streets’ wide sidewalks as parking lots, said Nget Chaddavy, deputy director of the municipal Finance Department.

“In some places, pedestrians are forced to walk into the road…which sometimes causes traffic accidents,” he said. “This measure will decrease the number of vendors on the sidewalk.

Nget Chaddavy proposed a tax on vendors who use the sidewalks as their storefronts, charging the vendors 1,000 to 15,000 riel ($0.25 to $3.75) per square meter each month, with the revenues going into commune and city coffers.

But Phnom Penh Governor Chea Sophara—creator of a high-profile city beautification campaign—rejected this suggestion, saying it would only legitimize the sidewalk-clutterers’ enterprises and contribute to the occupation of the sidewalks.

“If we’re just trying to make money off [the vendors], we will destroy public order,” Chea Sophara told the meeting. “I don’t want money from the sidewalk…. I want money from tourists visiting the city.”

The governor said the city needed to preserve sidewalks as a space reserved for walkers.

“If we have a principle of allowing people to sell on the sidewalk…they will encroach to the middle of the street,” he said.

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