Several hundred vendors marched to city hall Friday to protest the proposed rents and other conditions at the renovated Old O’Russei market, but Governor Chea Sophara said the municipality won’t back down.
“If you want to file complaints against me, go ahead,” Chea Sophara shouted at the protesters through a loudspeaker. “Put your thumbprints [on a complaint] to topple me, please. I have been here [working at the municipality] for 11 years. I do not so much want to be here [today].”
The vendors, who started their protest early Friday morning in front of the National Assembly, are demanding that proposed booth rates of between $1,900 to $3,300 over 20 years be dropped by at least 50 percent.
The vendors also complain that others are getting the prime ground-floor space, that the new shops are too small, that there is poor ventilation and no fire escapes. Some said they believe the city is cheating them by selling part of the property to a private company or rich individual.
Chea Sophara maintained that city officials are not hiding anything about the renovation of the market, and that the price cannot be lowered.
“I will make 3,000 copies of the contract and distribute it to you tomorrow,” Chea Sophara said. “We hide nothing, so take the contract and read it yourselves.” He added that if he could lower the price he would, to save himself the grief of the complaints.
Srey Pao, a 30-year-old vendor, said her key issue is to get a stall on the ground floor.
“We do not want to sell on the first floor because it is quite hot and the ceiling is very low.”
Vendor representatives are scheduled to meet with Chea Sophara again.
The renovation is nearly complete, but an opening date has yet to be scheduled.