Nearly 200 vendors from Kampot province demonstrated briefly in front of Prime Minister Hun Sen’s Phnom Penh residence on Monday, calling on the premier to intervene and stop a wealthy local businessman from constructing stalls in their market’s parking lot.
A vendor representative said yesterday that when vendors purchased stalls in 1995 at the Chhuk market in Satpoang commune, provincial authorities promised them the parking area–set in a prominent location–would not be used to house stalls. But in 2007, she said, a rich investor named Ouk Narin began building on the land and has since built almost 20 stalls.
“When he built the stalls he did not discuss with the vendors,” said the woman, who for security reasons gave only her given name, Bo.
“There will be no place to park the vehicles. It is hard to enter and leave the market and vendors inside cannot do as well,” she said, estimating that 300 vendors will likely be impacted by the construction of the new stalls.
She added that while traveling to Phnom Penh on Sunday afternoon ahead of their protest, their taxi was detained for hours by district and military police as they were leaving Chhuk district.
Khoem Horm, Chhuk district governor, denied the vendors’ claim that they had requested intervention at the district level and said he planned to halt further construction.
“I decided not to allow [Mr Narin] to build stalls,” he said, adding that he will destroy the stalls when the protesting vendors return to the district.
“It is not a big issue. We can solve this problem at the district level, but they didn’t request it,” he claimed.
According to Ms Bo, the vendors were moved from the prime minister’s house shortly after arriving at 6 am to the nearby Wat Botum pagoda where they were permitted to file their complaint with Lim Leangse, Hun Sen’s cabinet chief.
“Mr Leangse told us to turn around and that he called the provincial governor…who will not allow him to build the stalls,” she said.
Mr Narim could not be reached for comment.