Tomnup Market Vendors End Strike and Protest

Some 300 vendors from Tomnup market in Phnom Penh’s Russei Keo district on Thursday ended their strike over a proposed fee hike on market stalls, as well as a related protest against the arrest of two of their colleagues, though vendors gave differing reasons for returning to work.

A group of Interior Ministry police went to the market on Tuesday to arrest vendors Seng Sokly, 38, and Kim Bun An, 38, both leaders of a group that has been opposing a stall-fee hike from $50 to $120 a month, which was imposed by New Rich, the company that owns the market.

Hundreds of vendors spent Wednesday protesting the men’s detention outside the municipal court, accusing police of colluding with New Rich, while others went on strike outside the market, locking its gates.

Sourn Lina, a coffee seller who joined the strike, said she had decided to stop protesting because the group trusted that the court would release their cohorts.

“All the vendors don’t need to go to strike to demand the court to release Mr. Sokly and Mr. Bun An because we believe the court will release them,” she said.

However, fish monger Sren Rith, 34, said he had stopped striking because he simply believed it was futile, as company officials had proven earlier they could enter the market whenever they wanted.

“While we were on strike, the people from New Rich broke the doors,” he said, referring to a company representative who cut the locks put on the market gates, allowing non-striking vendors in.

He added that the matter was now in the hands of the court, and lawyers were better suited to campaign on behalf of the vendors.

Investigating Judge Ros Piseth said the pair were currently being detained at PJ Prison, but he would not tell reporters what they had been charged with.

“It is the secret of the court, I cannot tell anyone about this secret,” he said, declining to comment further.

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