Three hundred Tuol Sangke market vendors gathered outside the Interior Ministry this week to support three fellow vendors who were being questioned for alleged incitement for protesting new market rental rates.
The market vendors from Phsar Samhan market in Russei Keo district’s Tuol Sangke commune said they gathered outside the ministry on Monday to monitor the questioning of three other vendors who were being accused of incitement for participating in a protest against the doubling of market fees.
Voth Ravy, one of the 300 vendors, said the new market owner, Kim Chhay, wanted the vendors to pay $3,000 for a two-year contract to sell at the market, more than doubling the $1,500 the old owners charged for a three-year contract.
The vendors decided to protest against the move, which is when Chhay accused the three of incitement.
“We had never protested against anything before this new owner came in; we protested because he oppressed us too hard,” he said.
“Just think about it — Covid has just ended! And the business is not going well at all. How can we have enough to pay $2,000 to $3,000 for one shop?”
Srun Phy, one of the three people summoned, said he never incited other vendors and did not try to harm the new owners. Protests broke out only because the new owner was being hard on them, Phy said.
“About this incitement thing, I refuse it all because what we did was unite. We did it together. I did not call or ask them to join me,” Phy said.
Interior Ministry spokesperson Khieu Sopheak said only that people had left the ministry after the questioning and that the ministry was still assessing the complaint.
VOD could not reach Chhay, the new market owner.
Last year, vendors at Phnom Penh’s O’Russei Market also protested when they were asked to pay a 10% increase in market fees for a new contract lasting 20 years. The vendors said they were still recovering from the pandemic and refused to pay the increase in fees.