Stalemate? Workers Worry More About Prices

As politicians wrangle over the new government and observ­ers—including UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan—worry about the repercussions of the on­going deadlock, many Cambo­di­ans are more concerned about rising prices and local violence.

When asked if she had heard about the nine-month deadlock, food vendor Sok Da, 21, said, “I don’t know anything about that.”

But, she said, the prices for the food she sells are in­creasing, and she has to pay a police official $0.75 a day to sell her food on a side street off of Norodom Boule­vard.

She compared her predicament as similar to living with a tiger: “I have to cut some meat to give to the tiger so I can stay. Whenever the tiger wants to kill us he can.”

Phnom Penh motorbike taxi driver Long Seth, 30, said he doesn’t know much about what the government is doing, though he was aware of the deadlock.

“They negotiate for their own interests, not for [the national interest],” he said. “The price of petroleum is very high. If they were to reduce the cost, it would help many people.

“What affects our daily lives is petroleum and security,” he said.

Chea Vannath, president of the Center for Social Development, said that for now, the deadlock is something that is important to politicians and intellectuals. Most Cambodians don’t list “the government” as something that im­pacts their lives, she said.

The center holds public forums in 24 provinces, where locals  complain about everything from health care to political violence.

“They never say, ‘Please help with the government as soon as possible so we don’t get our pay checks late,’” she said.

But, she added, the ef­fects may become more obvious as money for social services dries up.

“But maybe we just see things getting worse. [Maybe] things were not going well already,” she said.


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