Olympic Market Vendors Appeal to Assembly

Hundreds of vendors from Phnom Penh’s Olympic Market protested Monday outside the National Assembly, calling on lawmakers to intervene with district and commune authorities who are trying to move them off the streets.

More than 200 protesters were on hand, demanding that members of the Assembly pressure district and commune officials to allow the vendors to continue selling on the road and sidewalks of streets 310, 193 and 199, where they have been selling since 1991, rather than a location about 300 meters away.

“We have to protest for our stomachs and our lives,” vendor representative Mey Kimseak said at the rally. “We need a place on the sidewalks or on the ground floor of Olympic Market,” she said.

In a letter dated Feb 16 and signed by Tuol Svay Prey I commune chief Ly Pou, the vendors were ordered to clear the streets and walkways by Feb 22 and in-stead sell in a new area near Tuol Sleng primary school.

Ly Pou could not be reached for comment. Reached by telephone Monday, Chamkar Mon District Governor Lou Yuy said about 800 vendors were ordered off the streets in a bid to make the area safer and cleaner.

“We want to help them, and keep our city clean. They should not blame us, because we are trying to help them,” he said, adding that many of the vendors are willing to move to the new location.

Mey Kimseak, however, claimed that 416 vendors are fighting the relocation.

Chum Sok Heng, who said he has been selling fish outside Olym-pic Market for seven years, said that the new location is not good for business.

“The new place is far from the crowd and it smells bad,” he said, adding that he earns between $2.50 and $5.00 each day in his current location.

Chamkar Mon district police chief Uch Sokhon said the vendors were told two or three months ago that they would have to move, and that they should not use the streets to sell products.

“We implement the move now because we have a new place for them,” Uch Sokhon said Monday.

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