Life of a Street Vendor

Ms Neb Soeun and other street vendor at Derm Kor market. Photo: Oxfam

"As a member of IDEA I have developedan understanding of my rights and knowledge about what platforms there are to voice my concerns when problems arise"
Ms Soeun

As the sun rises Neb Soeun will be found organising seasonal fruits and vegetables for sale at the market.

By evening she will have earned between $25 and $50 but the market owner’s sporadic collection of money from the vendors makes it difficult for Ms Soeun to save and support her family.

Ms Soeun is a widow and has worked to support her three children at the market for over ten years.

As a member of the Democracy of Informal Economy Association (IDEA) she has become a voice for street vendor rights in a market where authorities have been on a mission to disperse the street vendors or move them to proper stalls.

IDEA is a non-governmental organization established by Motodub driver, three vehicle driver, taxi driver, small business owners and garment workers.

The official cost of the space for a stall is $2 per day for expenses, the rented umbrella, daily commodity tax, cleaning service, and security, however, prices vary between vendors and money is often collected more than once a day with no explanation, an issue that Ms Soeun is confronting.

The street vendors are currently facing the biggest threat to their small businesses with the market owner and city hall planning to build a proper market where they would not be able to afford to rent a permanent stall.

Ms Soeun said she is mobilising other low-income vendors like herself to start a conversation about the situation so they can fight for their rights to continue selling.

She said they have asked city hall to delay the plan of a permanent market until 2021 so the vendors have the opportunity to save enough money to afford the new stalls.

Mobilising other vendors to become involved and express their concerns about working conditions has proved time consuming for Ms Soeun who said it is difficult to make a stand and maintain the daily upkeep of her stall.
Ms Soeun said because of the training she has received through IDEA the issues and treatment of the stall vendors no longer remains behind the closed office door of the market owner.

Public forums are increasing the awareness of the communal issues they are facing, and Ms Soeun works with fellow activist Ms Nov Sreyleak to ensure there is someone available for contact if issues occur, day or night.

Ms Soeun said support from IDEA gives her hope as it adds authority to the issues she and the other low-income vendors present to city hall and the market owner.

Download the story in PDF