Plans to rebuild Phsar Kandal have struck fear into the market’s community of longtime vendors, who gathered on Monday over concerns they will become the latest victims of Phnom Penh’s surging inner-city development boom.
Despite officials’ assurances that no expansion would happen without their consent, traders said on Monday they had become worried they would be forced out after hearing local news reports about plans to construct a high-rise building above the market.
“I really need a new and decent market, but I don’t trust them,” said Sok Lim, 42, who has sold papaya at the market for nearly 20 years.
“We are afraid that after building four or five or 18 floors…they will let us sell [there] for just five years and then they will kick us out.”
And although government officials assured reporters on Monday that vendors would be given titles for their stalls, Ms. Lim was afraid they would eventually be cheated.
“We are afraid that we will just hold the titles and the investors will take control of the market under their ownership,” she said.
She added that in her estimation, 80 percent of vendors did not support the idea of a multistory development but were open to having the existing market upgraded at the workers’ shared expense.
“We request they do it in the same way as Phsar Chas—making a common roof and having owners pay for the renovation of their own stands.”
Mean Chanyada, a spokesman for the Phnom Penh municipality, confirmed that City Hall had plans to rebuild the market but said feasibility studies were still underway.
“The main aim is that we want to renovate the market in order to develop it and make it more orderly,” he said, citing cramped stalls, an excess of trash and traffic jams in nearby streets as some of the dilapidated market’s current problems.
“Engineers, architects and our experts are studying options for the building.”
He added that, as far as he knew, most of the vendors were in support of the plan and that Daun Penh district governor Kouch Chamroeun had held “three or four” meetings to gauge interest.
“Our authorities will only do something that was agreed to by the vendors. I’m clear on this point.”
Mr. Chamroeun said that seeking vendors’ approval was essential and development would not go ahead without it.
“It is up to the vendors whether they want it or not,” he said, adding that the condition of the market—not profit—was the motivation behind the plan.
He said that feasibility studies were still in the early stages and that he did not know how extreme the renovations would be or whether they would involve adding extra stories.
“Our Kandal market is deteriorating,” he said. “You can go and have a look around and see the [poor] safety of the vendors.”
Cosmetics seller Soam Pisey, 38, however, said almost no one was aware of the plans until hearing about them on television and radio broadcasts.
“We denied that we knew about the renovation of the market,” she said. “We did not get any information from the market committee…. They did not tell or ask us.”