Ratanakkiri Trash Conflict Spills Over Again

Shoppers were again met with mountains of garbage on Thursday morning at the entrance to Ratanakkiri province’s largest market as authorities attempted to calm a dispute over trash collection fees.

Employees from trash collection company Khem Chhror emptied trash-filled trucks at the entrance of Banlung City’s main market at about 7 a.m. and did not budge for the rest of the day, provincial deputy governor Nhem Sam Oeun said.

The company staged a similar protest as recently as August over what they claim are unpaid fees from the market’s owner, Sa Leang, and vendors.

Mr. Sam Oeun said the conflict centers on vendors based on the periphery of the market who pay both Mr. Leang and Khem Chhror for trash collection.

Both Mr. Leang and the trash company “try to take state land to be their own to collect money from the vendors,” Mr. Sam Oeun said, adding that he was writing to the Commerce Ministry for advice on the dispute.

Khang Na, a manager for Khem Chhror, was unrepentant about the morning’s dump, claiming that Mr. Leang had underpaid by 500,000 riel, or about $123, per month since 2010.

“Our staff protested to demand the market owner pay the money that is owed to us,” she said. “If Sa Leang pays us, we won’t protest.”

Mr. Leang rejected the demand and said the garbage company’s actions followed a familiar cadence: Khem Chhror blocks the market’s entrances and leaves the refuse to rot for a week before vendors petition local authorities to intervene.

“I never owed any money to the garbage company,” he said. “I pay the bills every month. I have documents if you want to see.”


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