City Hall Wants to Move Auto Shops to Outskirts

Auto repair shops storing and selling vehicle parts as well as car dealerships in central Phnom Penh may have to relocate to the outskirts of the city if a plan designed to ease traffic congestion and beautify the area floated by City Hall goes ahead.

Business owners were quick to dismiss the idea and one political analyst suggested it could cost the government votes in next month’s commune elections.

Garage owner Oeng Bunheng stands inside his business on Street 202 in Phnom Penh’s Toul Kork district on Sunday. (Hannah Hawkins/The Cambodia Daily)

City governor Pa Socheatvong suggested that the proposal be included in future city planning, as it would help beautify the inner city and reduce clogged roads, municipal spokesman Met Measpheakdey said on Sunday.

Mr. Measpheakdey said noise pollution from engine revving and fumes from paint could also be harming residents living next door to such premises.

“This plan—we haven’t implemented it at this time, but it is the direction for the future,” he said.

But on Sunday traders who would potentially be affected by the move said it would fail to address the city’s traffic issues and be bad for business.

Sry Kimly, 24, said he could sell between $500 and $1,000 worth of car parts a day from his shop on Street 219 in Tuol Kok district.

“I’m concerned about customers not going there [to the city outskirts],” he said.

Around the corner on Street 202, garage owner Oeng Bunheng said he was also worried about the relocation costs, which he estimated to be between $8,000 and $10,000.

“City Hall should pay the cost to me because it costs a lot to move,” he said.

Speaking inside his parts warehouse on Street 358 in Chamkar Mon district, Vann Sombo, 42, said the governor’s reasoning for the plan was flawed.

“City Hall should think about the bus stations first, because the motodops and tuk-tuks stop everywhere,” causing traffic jams, he said.

Mr. Sombo said the city already had rules in place to make sure stock coming in and out of warehouses like his did not hold up local traffic.

However, he said, not everyone obeyed the after-8 p.m. and before-5 a.m. curfews for container trucks.

“Warehouses that have a good relationship with the government just pay the money to the authorities so they can bring their containers at day time,” he said.

Thirty-one-year-old Tem Reaksmey, the owner of a car dealership on the corner of Russian and Monivong boulevards, said he would lose 30 to 40 percent of his revenue if he was forced to relocate.

Political analyst Ou Virak said it was possible that the blowback from such an unpopular idea could cost the government in the June commune elections.

“The level of absurdity, and also the direct impact on the lives of people” could affect votes for the ruling CPP, he said.

“If your car is broken down, what are you going to do, push it out there? Or get a tow truck to roam around the city looking for you? It will create more traffic jams,” Mr. Virak said.

“I don’t think they can pull it off. There will be too much resistance,” he added.

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