Relocation Shakes Vendors Tuk-a-Luk Shaken

Meak Srei Neang says she has lost more than half her customers since a city directive forced her to relocate her business from a main artery to a side street some two months ago.

The 17-year-old vendor of what are locally known as “tuk-a-luks,” is one of dozens of street vendors compelled in December to vacate busy sections of Sihanouk Boul­evard near Independ­ence Monu­ment and Olympic Stad­ium.

The move, which has affected at least two main thoroughfares running through four districts of Phnom Penh, was described by municipal officials as part of an effort to ease traffic jams and beautify the capital. The directive also requires vendors to affix their stands to one spot.

Since moving to a spot nearby the monument on the comparatively quiet Pasteur Street, which intersects Sihanouk Boulevard, Meak Srei Neang said Wed­nesday that her revenue has fallen by 40 percent. She added that many sellers have gone out of business since December. “I used to bring in about 70,000 riel ($18), but now it’s down to almost 40,000 riel ($10.50).”

Municipal officials suggested it is the unavoidable side effect of an overdue measure.

“Our object was not to close down businesses,” Chan Sok­unthea, an adviser at the Munici­pality, said Sunday. “But there is a need to make the capital orderly—and this is something every country is doing….{We are} improving the city.”

Chan Sokunthea also indicated the vendors’ difficulties are temporary. “If they all move to side streets, their business will eventually improve because then people will know where they’re  selling their products.”

Meanwhile, vendors like Meak Srei Neang complain the directive has banished them to areas so remote that even long-time customers cannot find them. And one customer complained Wed­nesday: “It has taken over two months for me to track down [Meak Srei Neang]. It seems a very quiet place for her to sell something.” (Additional reporting by Ham Samnang)

Vy Voda, who runs a fruit shake stand nearby, agreed. “This kind of business requires a good location where everyone passes by,” Vy Voda said. “Otherwise, you have no chance of surviving.”



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