Around 200 vendors for Phnom Penh’s O’Russei Market are continuing to protest payments they have to make by October to cover the next 20 years of maintenance fees, saying they have yet to bounce back from the Covid-19 lull.
The vendors are being asked to pay a “term payment,” which is used for maintenance and development, which varies based on stall size and is for a duration of 20 years. On July 18, the market’s management announced a 10% increase in payments, with new prices ranging from $2,178 to $3,630 for a 20-year period.
The group of vendors said they were against the term “rent” being used in the new announcement because they “own” the rights to sell at their stalls. Furthermore, they had muted sales over the last two years because of the pandemic and were not financially healthy enough to make the payment. Some of them were asking for a 50% discount, around $1,400 for 20 years.
Negotiations between the vendors and market administration as of Thursday morning had led to no resolution. They have now protested two days in a row outside the market.
Ieng Srey, 69, was protesting on Thursday and said they had “hard titles” for her stall, had used it to take loans, and now being leveraged made it hard for her to afford the new payment.
“This is our property, our name is on it, we mortgaged it to the bank to get the loan for capital to run our business,” Srey said. “Secondly, we demand a reduction of 50%. The state is poor, [but] we are poor too.”
Teang Polly has been selling at O’Russei Market for more than 20 years. She said vendors had agreed to the 20-year payment in the early 2000s because a Chinese company at the time had built the market building and because of upgrades to the market.
But they felt there was no reason to pay the payment now because little had been done about the upkeep of the market, she said, and they didn’t have the money to pay the market administration.
“We cannot pay even with the old price, because nothing has been done [with renovations]. Before, they built the building, so we agreed to pay. But now, they did nothing,” she added.
Hort Vanthy, the market manager, said the market administration in consultation with local officials has decided on a 10% increase in payment over the 20-year period, which was based on estimated economic factors over the next two decades.
He said it was “impossible” to implement a 50% reduction in price and the best he could do was suggest that the district decide to keep the payment the same.
“If the vendors still say do not increase, then I will make a proposal to the governor to decide,” he said.
The new term payment is for a 20-year period and starts from January 1, 2021, to 31 December, 2040. The payment is expected between July 15 and October 15, according to the announcement.