Pushed Outside the City, Market Vendors Say Customers and Sales Have Dropped

A row of shops closed at O'Russey Market during Covid-19 market closures across Phnom Penh on May 11, 2021. (Danielle Keeton-Olsen/VOD)
A row of shops closed at O'Russey Market during Covid-19 market closures across Phnom Penh on May 11, 2021. (Danielle Keeton-Olsen/VOD)

The Kour Srov roundabout in Dangkao district, on the border of Phnom Penh and Kandal province, is a bottleneck of traffic. Both sides of National Road 2 are lined with remorques, tuk-tuks and motorcycles selling vegetables: large plastic bags of pumpkin, gourds, herbs and morning glory.

There is no official market at Kour Srov but vendors from Phnom Penh’s Doeum Kor wholesale market have turned it into a makeshift market. An explosion of Covid-19 cases in April, including at Doeum Kor market, led to the closure of public markets. Since then, vendors at the city’s major markets have spread out to the city limits to sell their wares.

Ouk Sitha used to sell at the Doeum Kor wholesale market till it was closed in April. Even after local officials allowed for 50 percent of vendors to return, Sitha did not go back. The monthslong closures and scattering of vendors meant that customers were no longer coming to market premises.

“Sales are complicated because we have lost many customers,” she said, adding that other vendors were selling near Chumpu Voan in Pur Senchey district.

She said the government should provide them a suitable place to sell vegetables, even though she had been offered a stall near Doeum Kor market.

“Selling along the road these days is dangerous. Our income has declined more than before, sometimes the vegetables cannot be sold and we have a loss of nearly 1 million [riel]” Sitha said, the loss amounting to nearly $250.

Chi Sreyla, another vegetable seller, said she had tried selling at allocated stalls near the Doeum Kor market but her usual customers were not returning to the market, forcing her to sell along National Road 2.

“I want a proper place to sell where many customers are coming to buy,” she said.

Market vendors have set up temporary stalls not far from the markets they used to work at across the city. Vendors from markets with Covid-19 cases were selling outside other markets, along Hun Sen Boulevard and from their homes when districts and communes were placed under a “red zone,” which restricted businesses and market activity.

Phnom Penh City Hall in May reopened markets only to close them again, with a June 24 announcement allowing for the reopening of private markets that can ensure social distancing and Covid-19 safety measures.

Long Dany sold vegetables at Doeum Kor market for 20 years. Initially, she did not know where to sell her produce after markets were closed. She later decided to sell near the Kour Srov but is now unable to sell as much as she did at the market.

“I have been selling here for three months already, and there is still no proper place to sell. So, it is very difficult because the sellers and buyers can not gather together at one place,” she said.

Dany said there were some stalls at Kour Srov but they were too expensive to afford.

“Sometimes, we cannot sell much, the vegetables are left over and we have to throw them away when they are spoiled. The income we get is spent on food [and we cannot] save like before.”

Dangkao district governor Kim Nhep said officials had asked vendors to not set up along the National Road and find other, less congested places to sell their products.

She said, “No one allowed them to sell on the road like this. They came to sell by themselves when the authorities started to close Doeum Kor and Neak Meas market.”

“We have no solution or vacant land for them to sell from. If the vendors have any vacant land or houses where they can sell their products, please go and sell there.”

(Translated and edited from the original article on VOD Khmer)

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