Qiu Xiu Juan, a vendor in front of Wat Onaloum, is angry that complaints from monks might prompt police to remove her business, especially because she has been paying officers to allow her to stay.
“I have been here three days and every day the police come and take about 2,000 riel from me in ‘permits,’ ” she said Sunday.
“This morning the police came and took some of my goods without paying. They have no right to make me move.”
Chinese vendors first began arriving to sell their wares alongside the prominent pagoda’s walls on Sothearos Boulevard last month.
On Sunday, the street was bustling with more than 50 vendors who had converged to sell plastic toys, pens, watches, jewelry and other trinkets laid out on blankets under the shadow of the pagoda. Many vendors spoke Chinese.
Cheay Ear, a senior monk at Wat Onaloum, said the vendors disrupt the peaceful atmosphere at the pagoda.
He said he wants local authorities or the Ministry of Religion to take action.
“It is not supposed to be a noisy place here. It is a place for people to make Buddhist ceremonies,” said Cheay Ear, who represents Tep Vong, the abbot of Wat Onaloum and one of the nation’s two Buddhist supreme patriarchs.
Ouch Thorn, deputy police chief for Don Penh district agreed with the monks that the vendors should go, but said he had to wait for the district governor, Sous Rindy, to make a decision.
“Whenever I drive past that place, it looks like such an eyesore in front of the pagoda,” said Ouch Thorn. “I think it makes trouble for the traffic and disrupts social order.”
The vendors seemed surprised on Sunday that the monks were not happy with them setting up shop in front of their pagoda, and said many of the monks had come out to buy goods from them.
Liu Da Zheng, who came to Phnom Penh from Zhejiang province in China one month ago, said he was attracted to the pagoda because other vendors sold here.
But he said he earns just 10,000 riel a day, which is just enough to buy food.
He said he would willingly move if told to relocate.
“It doesn’t matter,” he said. “I’ll go to the markets and other places in Phnom Penh if I have to leave.”
Cheay Ear said he has tried unsuccessfully to talk the vendors into leaving.
“I told them a few times but they didn’t listen,” Cheay Ear said.
“I don’t know how to get them to leave because I am only a monk. I have no power,” he said, referring to the vendors.