Market Vendors Worry Over Planned Renovation

A plan to renovate the 66-year-old Phsar Thmei is vexing city authorities, who must figure out what to do with displaced vendors when the project begins, officials say.

The renovation, which is scheduled to start in the middle of next year, would take at least 18 months to complete, Phnom Penh Deputy Governor Seng Tong said.             Authorities have been discussing the issue for several years but still have not come up with a plan for the vendors, or determined how much it would cost to move them.

Right now, technicians are at work on a study to come up with a plan and price tag, Seng Tong said. “We are waiting to see the technical proposal from the ex­perts,” Seng Tong said.

Part of the money would come from a $5 million French grant to improve three of the capital’s markets, including Phsar Thmei.

“It may not be enough for this market alone,” Seng Tong said of the grant.

Vendors last week said they too were not clear on the city’s plans.

“I am afraid of losing business. They have not told me where I should move to,” said Hour Gech Chhe, 34, a secondhand clothes vendor at the market.

City officials have talked to Phsar Thmei vendors in the past couple of years about moving, but nothing firm has been proposed. It has left many sellers nervous, Hour Gech Chhe said.

But the city won’t demand any money once the market renovation is completed, Seng Tong said.

Despite those reassurances, vendors believe that having the city “move” businesses spells their doom, Hour Gech Chhe said she isn’t the only one who feels that way.

“They’re all thinking the same way I am,” she said, pointing to neighboring stalls.

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