Psar Nath is the main market in Battambang town built by the French in the 1960′s. Early this week, over 200 vendors, mainly women marched to the office of the provincial governor. The governor has increased the rental of the stalls while business is slow. Over 1,000 vendors rent stalls at the market.
Stories I heard when visiting the markets are similar from stall to stall. The business is slow. Farmers have less money to spend. Civil servants and workers can not afford to buy goods. The high price of gasoline is another factor affecting to the hard times of the market vendors.
The market has no proper toilet facilities. Some vendors who can not afford to pay the extra dime for each time they use the private toilet facility must be creative and build a corner in their small stall that is hidden by a plastic curtain. To women, this is shame.
There is a felt level of fear among those vendors who have spoken up. After I left the market, one of the most outspoken vendors was approached by the head of the market committee and scolded by the rest of the fearful vendors for having told me the truth.
The issue will be raised at the next meeting with the governor by my local teams. We will continue to visit the vendors and inform them of their rights and engage them in developing strategies to continue the dialogue with the office of the governor.