Phsar Chas was closed Monday as about 900 vendors protested in front of Phnom Penh municipal headquarters, denouncing the government’s plans to rebuild the dilapidated market.
The municipality is planning to tear down what is known as the “old market” later this year and erect a three-story building. The ground floor will be occupied by vendors, and the top two floors will be rented out by the city.
The vendors would be moved to the park north of Phsar Chas while the new market is being built, a project expected to take about two years. Vendors would then have to buy space in the new building.
“We have no money to buy a new stall,” one vendor, who would not give her name, complained Monday. “It costs around $7,000 to $8,000. It is very expensive, and we are poor vendors. How can we buy new stalls?”
“If the Phnom Penh governor does not solve these problems for us,” one vendor said, “we will die, because we have no way to earn money for a living every day.”
The vendors said they would be back at Phsar Chas today. The municipality is still negotiating with both the vendors and the Hong Kong company that would build the new market.
First Deputy Governor Chea Sophara said a contract between the municipality and the vendors will be announced next week, outlining the schedule for construction, where vendors will go in the meantime and the price of stalls in the new building. He said last week that new stalls would cost only a “small amount of money.”
While the vendors don’t want to be turned out of the market, they are also concerned about the deteriorating condition of Phsar Chas. Particularly, they worry the building will burn down because of faulty electrical wiring. There have been three such fires this year, vendors said.