After negotiations between vendors and management at Phnom Penh’s Sorya Mall ended without a solution on Wednesday, hundreds of disgruntled shopkeepers shut their shops on Thursday, effectively closing one of the city’s biggest shopping centers.
Only the cinema and a few of the mall’s largest retailers kept their doors open as dozens of vendors planted themselves outside the mall, holding signs stating their demands for a 30 percent reduction in rental fees and a change of management.
Si Toun, chief of Daun Penh district’s Phsar Thmei I commune, where the mall is located, told vendors at about 5 p.m. that the mall’s management had agreed to sit down for another round of talks this morning.
In talks on Wednesday, mall managers proposed lowering rent by 20 percent—as long as the vendors pay rent on time, clearly display the cost of items for sale and stick to strict business hours. The vendors said they would only settle for a 25 percent cut with no conditions, and the meeting ended with no deal.
“Our sales have gone down dramatically, especially this year since the new managers started,” said Van Davy, 35, a clothing seller at Sorya. She said sales have dropped by between 70 and 80 percent in the last few years.
Ms. Davy said the proposal to impose strict business hours was the condition that has met the most resistance among vendors, who prefer to have the freedom to decide when to open and close their shops.
“We could accept some of the other conditions, but we cannot guarantee that we will come on time to open our stores,” she said.
Reoung Thorn, 48, another clothing seller, said tenants have also been frustrated by the lack of improvements in the building.
“The managers make the space in the corridors narrower and less attractive, hence more difficult to sell our products,” he said. “It’s also less safe, as we don’t have emergency windows.”