Phsar Thmei Vendors Protest Outside PM’s Home

Vendors from Phnom Penh’s historic Phsar Thmei protested outside the Takhmau town home of Prime Minister Hun Sen on Monday, seek­ing the premier’s intervention in renovation plans they fear will re­duce the size of their market stalls.

More than 30 vendors claiming to represent over 400 Phsar Thmei sellers gathered outside Hun Sen’s home asking for the removal of market director Sok Kimheng, who they claim is reducing stall sizes so he can profit from selling more retail spaces, said one of the protesters, who identified herself as Kimleng, 40.

“We protested and filed a complaint with Samdech [Hun Sen’s] cabinet because we have been waiting for a resolution from City Hall and the market director for a long time,” Kimleng said Tuesday, add­ing that her current stall, which she has operated since the 1990s, is 4 by 4.8 meters in size.

According to publicly unveiled plans for the renovation of the 1930s-era market, vendors with stalls the size of Kimleng’s would see their vending area reduced to 5.8 square meters, about one-third of their current size. Vendors that have 3 meter by 2.5 meter stalls will see their stalls cut in half.

In August, Municipal Governor Kep Chuktema told irate vendors that the renovation was definitely going to happen but a compromise could be made on the stall sizes.

Kitchenware vendor Thoeng Tivtong, 52, said Tuesday that his Phsar Thmei stall stands to be cut to 25 percent of its current size, but he did not attend the demonstration because market officials had told him that a compromise would be ready by next week.

Sok Kimheng, the market’s director, confirmed Tuesday that the market and City Hall were ready to announce a resolution on the renovation plan next week, but he did not elaborate as to what it might include.

He added that vendors would receive new stalls after the renovation in the same areas and that ultimately there would only be a few more stalls than the 2,849 the market currently contains.

“We are renovating the market because we want to have a modernized and beautiful market with enough space for buyers to walk about while purchasing items being sold,” he said.

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