Over a hundred Battambang province vendors gathered yesterday outside the office of the Mong Russei district governor to protest their removal from a makeshift market in Mong commune by police, local officials said yesterday.
The vendors, who claim that they were being unjustly harassed by police, began protesting outside district governor Long Som’s office on Monday, expressing a desire not to be moved to a new market being built some 250 meters down the road as other vendors said the holdouts were holding up the relocation process. Mr Som said yesterday the vendors were not operating legally.
“These vendors are selling on a public street,” Mr Som said by telephone before hanging up.
Deputy district governor Uth Kimhoeung said yesterday that the area where the vendors’ stalls were located was being “cleaned up for public order and to look nice.”
Deputy commune chief Chea Savan said yesterday four representatives of the vendors had met with the district governor in the morning to discuss their relocation.
“They complained that the new place is too quiet, so no one will buy their products,” said Mr Savan, adding that he was trying to convince the protesting sellers that their customer base wouldn’t disappear because of 250 meters.
Khiev Hoy, one of the vendors’ representatives, said yesterday that she had told Mr Som she would only move if the vendors who do sell their goods on the street also relocate to the new market.
“If they go, we will move too,” said Ms Hoy. “If 100 vendors move to the market and many more do not, then they will take the customers. I have tried to sell vegetables at the new market and there were no customers.”
Vendor Ho Salen said yesterday that though the four women who met with Mr Som agreed to move, the protesters waiting outside the district office did not. According to Ms Salen, local police are harassing the vendors at the makeshift market because they pay rent to a landlord rather than bribes to officers like the vendors in the established market across the street.