Street-side gasoline vendors must relocate from the main boulevards in central Phnom Penh by this weekend because of the dangers posed to passing motorcades, officials said.
Vendors must remove barrels and bottles of gasoline from along Monivong, Norodom, and Russian boulevards, as well as on Sisowath Quay, to ensure the safety of both government officials and foreign dignitaries, said Pich Socheata, deputy Daun Penh district governor.
If they fail to relocate, district authorities will forcibly remove gasoline sellers, she said, adding that the order also applies to vehicle washing businesses and makeshift structures that impinge on sidewalks.
“[Prime Minister Hun Sen] and international, important guests often travel on main streets so we have to strengthen security,” she said. “We are afraid some troublemaker could throw bottles of gasoline at officials’ cars or [the gasoline] could set on fire accidentally.”
On Friday, police officials confiscated 20 barrels of gasoline from Russian Boulevard and Sisowath Quay and destroyed them because vendors had ignored an earlier order to relocate, she added.
Pich Socheata said it was particularly important to clear the gas barrels from Russian Boulevard, as foreign dignitaries use it to travel from Phnom Penh International Airport, and government officials travel on it to work at the Council of Ministers.
Interior Ministry spokesman Lieutenant General Khieu Sopheak said the project aims to keep the city looking tidy as well as ensuring better security.
“We don’t want our guests to see masses of stuff [on sidewalks],” he explained.
Chhay Thirith, chief of Daun Penh’s Srah Chak commune, said district authorities have told him to make sure street vendors keep clear of the Council of Ministers.
“Banning gasoline vendors is to prevent any terrorism or any fire that can create trouble for leaders or international guests,” he said.
Phan Peng, Daun Penh district police chief, said he welcomed the proposed removal of the vendors.
“It doesn’t look nice if bottles of gasoline and barrels stand on the sidewalk of main streets,” he said.
Vendors have been told to relocate three or four times previously and have ignored the order, he said.
Several vendors and their customers said they were opposed to the proposed relocation.
Mong Eng, a taxi-driver working in between Phnom Penh and Kompong Cham province, said he buys gas from vendors on Sisowath Quay because he can’t afford gas at formal petrol stations.
Srey Mom, a 38-year-old gasoline seller on Sisowath, said she currently sells between 600 and 900 liters of gas a day, for about 80 cents each.
“I do good business now but I don’t know about next week,” she said.