Vietnamese Shops Worry Over Possible Violence

Vietnamese business owners and managers in Phnom Penh on Tuesday said they were concerned their shops could become potential targets of ethnically motivated violence as anti-Vietnamese sentiment among protesters increases, but added they would continue to operate as normal—for now.

“I am worried, but I still must stay open and sell,” said Uy Theary, manager of Kim Lien Mart on Street 90, which opened in October and sells imported goods from Vietnam.

“During the protest last week, I closed the shop for one day because I was afraid some protesters would come and destroy my shop.”

Ms. Theary, 41, said she would remain open unless protests move closer to her shop or become more violent.

“If it’s big enough, I will close,” said Ms. Theary, who moved from Vietnam to Cambodia about 12 years ago. She declined to give her Vietnamese name.

In recent weeks, there has been a rise in anti-Vietnamese sentiments among protesters at opposition party and garment factory demonstrations around the city. The CNRP opposes unchecked Vietnamese immigration, and has accused the ruling CPP of ignoring the issue.

On Friday, when five protesters were shot dead and more than 40 wounded by military police gunfire on Veng Sreng Street, a separate group of protesters later destroyed at least one Vietnamese coffee shop in the area.

The shop’s owner, Sok Min, 27, said the attack on his store was ethnically motivated because he is Vietnamese. He also said the group of protesters avoided destroying stores that were not Vietnamese.

Vietnamese shop owners at Kandal Market in Phnom Penh, which is home to a large number of Vietnamese-owned businesses, were largely unfazed Tuesday.

“We will still continue to operate our business as normal despite what happens in the country. I know about the protests, and I know they are ongoing every day,” said Sok Chenda, 27, who owns a hair salon in the market.

Another shopkeeper, who declined to give her name for fear of reprisals, said, “I am worried about the protesting, but this is normal. I must live, and I must work.”

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