Hundreds of vendors from Phnom Penh’s Olympic Market rallied outside Chamkar Mon district authority headquarters Wednesday morning, while representatives met with officials from the firm managing the market, which vendors say is trying to intimidate them into accepting unfavorable lease terms.
About 600 vendors demonstrated during the meeting before marching to the municipal governor’s office when it did not provide any definitive results, vendor representative Ith Sarum said.
“[Today], we are going to Prime Minister Hun Sen’s house again to demand the seven points of our problems, because the vendors are afraid of being threatened by the Thai Bunrong company, which removed some of our stalls and is using bad words to the vendors,” Ith Sarum said.
The vendors said they were hoping the market would revert to state ownership when the company’s 15-year lease of the market expired, and were disappointed when Thai Bunrong signed a new 20-year contract, which was recently approved by the Council of Ministers.
Speaking into megaphones, protesters accused the company of exploiting them, saying that according to the new contract, the vendors would combine to pay about $29 million over 20 years for their stalls while the company pays the municipality just $2 million for the market.
Another issue, the vendors said, was the company’s order that the vendors sign just 10-year agreements, saying they wanted 20-year leases instead.
“We are demanding to occupy all of our stalls, because the 15 years is finished, so Olympic Market should become state property again,” one vendor said into a megaphone.
Phnom Penh Deputy Governor Pa Socheatvong said “the stance of City Hall is to discuss with the company further first, then talk with the vendors” before taking a position, adding that the dispute “is not a serious case.”
Deputy Municipal Governor Mann Chhoeun said that the case was being handled by Governor Kep Chuktema’s cabinet, and referred questions to cabinet chief Nuon Sameth. Nuon Sameth said he was too busy to comment.