Hundreds of vendors protesting the new rents at the renovated O’Russei Market toured the site Monday with opposition leader Sam Rainsy.
“Technically speaking this is not that bad,” a clearly impressed Sam Rainsy said of the new market.
Just hours before, the opposition leader had requested that the government disclose the contract governing the construction and management of what is the city’s largest market.
He told the vendors that he would analyze the controversial rent structure.
Meanwhile, senior municipal officials said the city will officially reopen the market in early August, even if some vendors continue to boycott the market.
Nearly 2,700 vendors already have registered to occupy the new market and 1,200 vendors have already paid the lease, officials said.
“I believe a half of the total booths will be occupied before the official inauguration” on August 3, said Nget Chaddavy, the municipality’s financial chief.
The three-story building has more than 4,500 booths and 400 parking spaces.
Each vendor is required to pay rent between $1,900 and $3,300 for a 20-year lease, equivalent to less than $0.50 per day.
The city is requiring the rents to be paid within five years. Vendors say they either want the rent cut in half, or 15 years to pay off the lease.
“Nobody is making any profits out of it. The money is returned to the investor,” Chan Sokunthea, assistant to Governor Chea Sophara, said of the rent structure.
The market was transferred to the municipality from tycoon Teng Bunma’s company in the early 1990s.
In 1996, the city started an $11 million renovation with a build-operate-transfer scheme with a Taiwanese company.
However, work halted after the 1997 factional fighting.
Early last year, construction resumed with an additional Chinese investor, according to the city.