Some 500 vendors from the Boeung Kang Keng market in Chamkar Mon district protested in front of the National Assembly Thursday, demanding that the government recognize their legal ownership of their stalls.
Vendors are enraged by a new municipal policy that requires them to pay five years’ rent on their stalls up front. “We are owners of the stalls, why should we have to rent them?” said Min Chansy, a vendor at the market. “It is unacceptable.”
As the National Assembly session ended, the vendors lined the park in front of parliament in hopes they could meet with Prince Norodom Ranariddh to resolve the dispute as he left the grounds, but the prince was driven away through another exit.
The new policy would charge the 1,416 vendors $100 to $300, depending on the size of the stall, for the five-year period from January 2002 to December 2006. The vendors own their stalls, but the municipality owns the land under the market.
“We are very disappointed in the municipality’s policy. We don’t agree with it,” said Tan Savy, the vendors’ representative.
Ou Sarn, the municipal official who runs the market, said Boeung Keng Kong vendors have never paid rent before because the market is small and the vendors are poor, but the new policy is fair because the rent is so little—about 200 to 600 riel ($0.05 to $0.15) per day. The money would go back into developing the city, he added.
Tan Savy said the vendors are confused about the new policy because the government has sent them several different messages, and they are afraid to sign something they don’t understand.
Deputy Governor Chev Kimheng first issued a notice simply ordering the vendors to pay the rent by Nov 30 or have their stalls confiscated. A few days later, he issued another notice, this one with nine conditions for the new rental arrangement. A few days after that, another order was issued, with 12 conditions.
“We don’t know what the real policy is, and we are afraid of the municipality’s pressure,” Tan Savy said.