If Phnom Penh Governor Chea Sophara is serious about his offer to pay $4,300 for booths at the soon-to-be-reopened O’Russei Market, he may have some takers. Song Phala, one of a group of vendors who gathered Saturday at Wat Preah Puth to protest the $3,300, 20-year lease payable over five years, said she would gladly sell to Chea Sophara.
“I think that a state of law would not allow this chaos and injustice,” Song Phala said, referring to a doubling of the rent. “I hope Samdech Hun Sen can find justice solving the issue.”
Another vendor, Tong Chu, also offered to sell out to the governor. “If I sell all the gold in my shop, I cannot get enough dollars to pay for the [new] shop,” she said. “If his excellency buys shops for $4,300, I would sell it.”
Reached on Sunday, Chea Sophara did not talk about his earlier offer. He did emphasize what he considers an orderly transition process as the market prepares to reopen on August 3.
“Almost 3,000 shops are already registered,” Chea Sophara said. “The majority have paid the rent. I am not going to walk backwards on this.”
The governor said that getting street vendors back inside the market is part of social order management. Seap Sunary, a vendor spokeswoman, predicted the protests might last another 10 days. She said she would compile a list of protesters who can’t afford to pay the new rate and submit it to the municipality.
“We don’t serve any particular political party,” she said. “We don’t have money to hire lawyers. If we had money, we would use it to pay for the shops, and not let this issue bother us.”
The vendors continued their protest Monday morning, gathering outside the house of Deputy Prime Minister Sar Kheng.