Gas Vendors Ordered Off City’s Main Boulevards

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.


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