sihanoukville – As smoke billowed out of Sihanoukville’s Phsar Leu market in January, Lay Samnang ran inside to save his livelihood. Three and half months later he still fears for the future of his business.
Most of the 1,100 or so market vendors like Lay Samnang have been able to recover from the fire that destroyed Phsar Leu on Jan 2. But that recovery they say is fragile for the moment, and many have gone into debt to rebuild their businesses and are waiting for the rebuilt market to reopen.
Some vendors, including Lay Samnang, have moved to Phsar Leu’s next door rival the Sihanoukville Trade Center, though some question whether the coastal town can support two large markets situated side-by-side.
The saga of the rival the Sihanoukville markets has seen myriad plot twists.
In May 2004 vendors in Phsar Leu closed shop to protest the municipality’s plans to move them to the trade center. And immediately after the fire the privately owned Sihanoukville Trade Center seemed poised to become the dominant market.
Months later that prognosis is in question.
Prime Minister Hun Sen agreed to pay for a new roof following the gutting of Phsar Leu. Municipal officials said construction of new stalls at the market could begin after this week’s New Year holidays, but the completion date depends on negotiations with vendors.
Sihanoukville Governor Say Hak said that as the city’s population of about 170,000 grows, it will need two markets to increase competition.
“There are more migrant