Despite the colorful banners, loud music and a ceremony presided over by Phnom Penh Governor Chea Sophara, there wasn’t much to buy on the opening day of O’Russei Market.
Although many curious residents turned out for the opening day to hear Chea Sophara speak, many of the stalls inside the market remained incomplete and empty on Thursday.
Chea Sophara acknowledged the market is unfinished, but he said opening the $11 million market now will give vendors a head start in attracting customers.
“Opening it now will help vendors lure their clients, who will know where they are located in the market,” he said in a speech.
More than 200 stalls need to be finished and gates need to be installed so vendors can lock up their goods. Work was being done on the market on opening day, and city officials hope it will be completed by next weekend.
Kong Sihouth, who was putting toys on the shelves in her stall, says she hopes her old customers will return when the market is fully operational.
“It’s not busy right now, but I hope it will get better,” she said.
The new O’Russei, Phnom Penh’s biggest market, has three floors and about 6,000 vendors, which is about 1,600 more than the old market. Customers can buy a wide array of goods at O’Russei, from food to clothes to household items.
The new market is part of an overall plan to upgrade the eight major shopping areas in the city. The municipality is considering renovating or constructing new buildings for other old markets in the city.
“It is very important to improve the look of the city,” Chea Sophara said.
He also thanked opposition leader Sam Rainsy, who supported vendors who protested the price to rent a stall. In the end, the municipality refused to meet the vendors’ demands and kept the rent at $1,900 to $3,300 for a 20-year lease, with the money to be paid over a five-year period.
“There is an opposition party here, which shows we have good democracy in the country,” Chea Sophara said, alluding to Sam Rainsy’s efforts.