More than 100 market vendors in Ratanakkiri province’s Banlung town submitted complaints to local rights group Adhoc yesterday accusing a private firm of limiting the number of stalls that sellers can operate in the town’s newly-renovated market.
According to the vendors, the Heng Dara company, which carried out extensive renovations to the market since 2008, has set a limit on the number of stalls that a person can own, despite many owners having owned more than two stalls for up to 16 years.
Those who want to continue operating three or more stalls must now pay a new fee of at least $1,500 for the privilege of owning more than two stalls, said Neang Bunsrey, who has owned three stall at the market since 1999 and was recently forced to fork out the large amount of cash to continue operating his third stall.
“We have protested repeatedly to seek help from the provincial authorities as the firm is taking over our stalls in order to sell them to other people,” Mr Bunsrey said by telephone.
Mak Srey Sar, who has also been told to forfeit two of his four stalls, said that he hasn’t got $1,500 to pay to get his two stall backs.
“I hope the leaders in Phnom Penh…will intervene to stop this company from sucking the blood of poor vendors who earn just a little money to make a living,” Ms Srey Sar said.
New vending spaces created by the company at the main entrance to the market are also being offered at exorbitant prices for 30-year leases, said Leng Horng, another protesting vendor.
“More than 40 stores measuring 3 meters by 4 meters in the front of the market are being sold at $40,000 to $50,000 and we cannot afford them because it is too expensive,” he said.
Businessman Sa Leang, who owns the company that renovated the market under a deal with local officials, could not be contacted for comment yesterday.
Deputy Chief of Ratanakkiri’s Provincial Cabinet Heng Kimsan said he was not involved in the market renovation deal other than knowing that the Heng Dara company was awarded the contract.
“I know this company is working to improve and renovate the market. I don’t think the authority awarded this license to the firm in order to hurt vendors,” he said.
Vendor Sok Mab said that the protesting stallholders would sign a petition and send it to Prime Minister Hun Sen.
“We have staged several protests but authorities at all levels in this province are not in favor of helping the poor vendors,” he said.
In Siem Reap province yesterday, more than 100 market vendors protested outside the popular Puok Market in Puok district over orders that sellers operating stalls outside the market move to a new location 50 meters from their current site. Authorities say the vendors have sprawled too near to the main National Highway 6A and are causing trafficking jams, as well as being unsightly for visitors to the province.
“We are trying to organize public order and car parking for Puok Market,” said district governor Pich Sokhalai explaining that when the area is cleared of vendors in front of the market it will be used for parking cars.
Authorities “had to move the anarchic selling outside the market,” he added.
The protesting vendors said their sales will suffer if they no longer have access to the passing highway trade.
“I can only sell my chickens to the travelers who pass this market,” said roast chicken vendor Sao Narou, 41.
“If I move to the other market I will not earn any money because no one can see that new market place,” she said.
Mr Sokhalai said that he has sent the vendors request to stay put to the provincial governor and was waiting on a decision.