Olympic Vendors to Be Evicted Today

Vendors on the streets around Phnom Penh’s Olympic Stadium have been ordered to vacate their stalls today or authorities will “enforce the decision of the government,” officials said yesterday.

Addressing a crowd of about 70 to 80 vendors near Wat Botum yesterday, Kong Chamroeun, a member of the prime minister’s Cabinet, said the eviction deadline had run out.

“We would like to give final information to you all that you should please go to remove your belongings,” he said.

Prampi Makara district governor Som Sovann said authorities would try to avoid any violence in carrying out the eviction.

“It will not cause any tension that would lead to violence. It obviously depends on the situation,” he said. “We don’t want to have any violence, but authorities will identify who instigates any violence.”

Mr Sovann said authorities would start by clearing Phsar Sampov Meas, an area of stalls on the corner of streets 163 and 182.

Hak Kim Heang, who has stalls there, said authorities had ignored the vendors’ pleas.

“We listen to them, but they don’t listen to us,” she said.

Seng Thal, 51, another affected vendor, said she would not be able to earn a living if she is forced out.

“My rice pot is in this place. If I remove my stall, I will not know what to do to earn money,” she said.

Deputy district governor Lim Sophea said about 10,000 square meters around the stadium would be used to construct headquarters for the National Olympic Committee of Cambodia. Mr Sophea said he had asked the municipal health department to arrange for an ambulance to be on hand as the evictions are carried out.

Sok Sokun, municipal health department director, said he had granted the request to ensure the safety of all involved.

“We are thinking about the health of the general population. We are prepared to protect people in case they faint,” he said. The development was first announced in 2006, but officials have never said why the project was delayed for so long.

A previous deadline passed unheeded on Tuesday, 15 days after yet another eviction notice expired without any action being taken.

The Ministry of Education, Youth and Sport, which has authority over the NOCC, released a statement yesterday defending the decision to go ahead with the eviction.

The statement claimed that the ministry had decided not to evict the vendors on three separate occasions since 2003, without stating why that decision had been made.

“The Ministry of Education, in cooperation with local authorities and authorized units, will enforce the decision of the government,” the statement read.

NOCC Secretary-General Vath Chamroeun said construction of the new headquarters would begin once the land is handed over.

“Now we are preparing the construction machinery,” he said

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