Three days after police and military police officers in Preah Sihanouk province moved in on Kang Keng market with plans to evict vendors, the provincial governor said on Sunday that the market would remain and the vendors be allowed to stay.
Officials said the main reason for the aborted eviction attempt was because the vendors had requested their own removal. Vendors, however, blamed a competing market owner for being behind the move, and said their supposed request to be moved out was actually a letter to Prime Minister Hun Sen asking for free stalls at the other market, if they were evicted from their current stalls as threatened.
Preah Sihanouk governor Yun Min said on Sunday that authorities were wrong to attempt to clear out the market, though he said it was simply due to confusion.
“The provincial authority has no right to shut down the market because it is private property,” he said, denying that an ongoing campaign by Sot Sampanh, the owner of the nearby Smach Deng market, to shut down Kang Keng had contributed.
“We did it following the request of the 88 vendors because they wanted us to shut down the market, but when we took action they refused to go,” Mr. Min said.
“We also have pity for the Smach Deng market owner,” he added. “But we are unable to help him because the vendors refuse to take their businesses to the Smach Deng market.”
Mr. Sampanh, a former district police chief in Phnom Penh who spent $300,000 to open the larger Smach Deng market in 2014, has struggled to woo vendors and customers from Kang Keng, which is closer to National Road 4 in Prey Nop district.
“I will demand that provincial authorities find a solution for me if they do not shut down the Kang Keng market,” he said on Sunday.
Phen Sokhon, who owns Kang Keng, said he met with Mr. Min on Saturday and was reassured that the market could continue operations, adding that authorities had backed off because they were concerned about losing support in next year’s commune elections.