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Authorities Move To Evict Stadium Vendors

Vendors tear down their stalls around Phnom Penh's Olympic Stadium on Friday, pushed out by plans to build offices for the National Olympic Committee.

More than 100 police cleared out vendor stalls surrounding the Olympic Stadium in Phnom Penh on Friday, blocking off the main roads and carrying shields and electric batons to push out those reluctant to go.

Some vendors appeared to have little time to carry their goods from the stalls, leaving behind clothes, shoes, belts and other merchandise as they dismantled their metal-roofed shops.

Other vendors shouted at the police, angry because they said they had been given notice only the day before they would have to leave.

“In Pol Pot's regime, we had three days to evacuate Phnom Penh,” said Hak Kim Heang, a clothing seller. “Right now, the Cambodian regime is crueler than Pol Pot.”

City officials say they need to clear the vendors from 10,000 square meters of land in order to build offices for the National Olympic Committee and to build a wall around the stadium.

Pa Socheatvong, deputy governor of Phnom Penh, told VOA Khmer on Friday that the city had made several announcements to vendors.

“This area belongs to the Ministry of Education, Youth and Sport, for the development of sports in Cambodia,” he said.

Vath Chamroen, secretary-general of the Olympic Committee, said the building will provide offices for his agency, as well as the Cambodian Football Federation and other sports organizations.

He urged calm among the vendors and an understanding of Cambodia's policies to develop sport.

But on Friday, calm and understanding were in short supply. Vendors said they were left to clear out the stalls by themselves, and some accused city authorities of keeping roofs and other building materials to sell for recycling.

Yin San, police chief for Prampi Makara district, said police had been deployed to control security only. He denied his police had taken any materials from the vendors.