On Oct 17, Municipal Governor Kep Chuktema announced that police would increasingly work to keep Phnom Penh’s busiest streets and sidewalks clear.
Since then, enforcement has come in three varieties: good, bad and indifferent.
Some of the best results can be seen near Olympic Market in Chamkar Mon district. Two weeks ago, Street 193 was glutted with overflow from shops and restaurants, snarling traffic for blocks.
On Monday, the street was impressively orderly. Numerous businesspeople near Olympic Market said the cleanup happened because several days ago, police hand-delivered letters from local commune chiefs explaining the sidewalk ordinance.
“We focus on educating people to understand the laws,” Tuol Svay Prey II commune chief Yun Chan said Monday,
He also noted that local police would only fine shopkeepers as a last resort.
Many vendors said they were happy with the results, including Srei Thom, a fruit seller whose goods used to spill into Street 193.
“I’m not angry at police at all, because since they organized the road I have more space for people to come buy fruits,” she said.
Electronics vendors on the streets surrounding Phsar O’Russei in Prampi Makara district told a different story.
Multiple vendors said Sunday that there had been an unexpected sidewalk clearance crackdown about 10 days ago, and that they had been obliged to pay district police to reclaim their confiscated goods.
Yin Nary, 25, helps her sister sell DVD, VCD and cassette players across from Phsar O’Russei. About 10 days earlier, she said, district police took two portable cassette players from the sidewalk in front of her shop, explaining that the streets had to be cleared for the upcoming Water Festival.
“To get my cassette players back, I had to pay 15,000 riel,” she said, adding that she saw many items confiscated from other vendors in the district police office.
“Some shop owners paid $10 to get back items like refrigerators,” she said.
Shop owner Ly Sokha said that police came about 10 days ago and confiscated four cassette players from her sidewalk.
“I went to get them back and paid 5,000 riel for each,” she said.
“I keep them on the sidewalk all the time, and there is no problem,” she added. “I am not happy at all because they do not warn us before enforcing.”
Another electronics shop owner, Bun Neang Thom, 31, said police had taken two large bass speakers from in front of her shop, which she reclaimed at the district police station for $5.
“This time it was my mistake,” she said. “I know the police want to organize the road properly.”
Reached by phone Sunday, Prampi Makara District Governor Sun Srun said he did not know that district police collected such payments.
“There is no policy to do that, because at this stage, we just want to educate the people to understand the law,” he said. “I will check whether it happens like the people said.”
In many parts of the city, though, indifference reigns. On the crowded streets near Phsar Chas in Daun Penh district on Monday, no one seemed to have heard of new sidewalk clearance enforcement.
“I sell food here every day, but I didn’t hear such information from the authorities,” said Chorn Kim Eang, who works a stand on the sidewalk of Street 110. “And if my sister had heard this, she would have told me.”
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