The popular street-side bars and restaurants that line Wat Botum Park in Phnom Penh’s Daun Penh district have been told to move out by Tuesday or face eviction, vendors said on Monday.
Stall owners and workers said district authorities had come by 10 days prior to announce that beginning on May 1 the street had to be clear of vendors. None of them had received a formal written warning.
“The authorities said if the vendors are still selling tomorrow [May 1] they will seize their property and chase them out,” said Ly Kuon, who sells fried dough snacks, or cha kvai, at 1,000 riel (25 cents) each.
Met Measpheakdey, City Hall spokesman, said Daun Penh authorities were simply enforcing a citywide policy that prohibits vendors from occupying public land, including parks and pavement, in the interest of traffic flow, beauty and cleanliness. Currently, most of the vendors are set up on the sidewalk outside the park fence closest to Wat Botum.
“The authorities will take action,” he said, declining to confirm if they would seize vendors’ equipment or not.
One Daun Penh security guard stationed at park declined to comment, saying “just wait and see”.
When reached for comment, the Daun Penh district governor hung up on reporters.
Some 60 Wat Botum vendors signed onto a petition asking the authorities to reconsider the policy, said Kong Savuth, 38, who has been running a street food restaurant across from the pagoda for more than eight years.
“We ask permission to stay and work cooperatively with authorities to solve the problem of traffic. I could move my stall further back [from the road], or for garbage we could coordinate with Cintri,” he said.
Savuth said the municipality had promised to respond to the petition by Monday or Tuesday but have not yet done so. Measpheakdey acknowledged receipt of the petition and said “we cannot adhere to their request” because giving them a reprieve would set a precedence for vendors elsewhere.
Savuth said he will set up shop as usual on Tuesday and that he expects many vendors to defy the authorities as “they share the same beliefs”.
“All of the sellers here are poor and if we move [to fixed addresses] we need to pay rent, which is unaffordable to us,” Savuth said, noting that beyond a nominal fee paid to the municipality, he also pays a 5,000 riel ($ 1.25) daily bribe to district security – a payment that has not been collected since the order to move was made 10 days ago.
For patrons of the street-side eateries and cocktail bars, which are packed on weekend evenings, the impromptu businesses would be missed.
“This place will be so quiet if they’re all gone,” said Srey Net, 28.