Minister of Information Khieu Kanharith and senior Grassroots Democratic Party (GDP) official Yang Saing Koma called on the Ministry of Commerce to set up booths for private vendors in lockdown areas.
The appeal comes on the heels of Phnom Penh Municipal Hall’s April 23 directive dictating that all state-owned markets and other improvised ones — such as those that sprawl near factories, hospitals and residential areas — throughout the capital shut for 14 days effective through May 7.
Kanharith lauded the commerce ministry’s “good initiative” to open stalls to sell essential groceries to the people, but recommended it institute payment instalment plans for those who cannot afford to pay upfront and allow vendors from the general public to sell nearby to those who can.
He wrote on his official Facebook page on April 25: "In doing so, we can help the poor and allow the people [who have been vaccinated twice] to have a source of income.
“If the [commerce] ministry doesn’t want to sell on instalments, it need not sell by itself and could let the private sector do so as well. The ministry could merely control prices. In doing so, it wouldn’t be difficult for government officials to come and sell."
Meanwhile, Saing Koma called on the commerce ministry to establish places for wholesale agricultural products inbound from the provinces so that traders can earn an income during the movement curbs.
This, he noted would provide opportunities for small business owners, most of whom he noted live “from hand to mouth”. He likened the potential vending posts to “a pot for cooking rice”.
He added: "In my opinion, the [commerce] ministry should focus on supporting vendors so that they can run their businesses well, at a suitable location to receive a smooth supply of agricultural products from various sources and sales transactions in accordance with good health principles.
“Sharing responsibilities and mutual assistance between the state and the people has led us to combat Covid-19 successfully."
The commerce ministry, through the Green Trade Company (GTC), sold more than 62 tonnes of milled rice, as well as a handful of other essential food products to people in designated red zones from April 15-19.
It said it sold 1,241 50kg sacks of milled rice, 4,620 boxes of noodles, 1,153 boxes of fish sauce, 785 boxes of soy sauce, 1,627 cans of fish, 140 packs of bottled drinking water, 115kg of vegetables, 13kg of sausages and 356 bags of chhay pov – or sun-dried preserved daikon radishes – during that time.
On April 20, the ministry dispatched five trucks to red zones in the capital to sell food products and groceries at below-market prices during the lockdown. It has also set up 11 temporary stalls to sell essential groceries to the people.
Cambodia Rice Federation (CRF) also said that members of the federation working with the ministry sold about 2,000 tonnes of rice from April 16-23, and that figure is expected to increase once transport restrictions are eased.
And Virak Buntham Express Co Ltd, in cooperation with Phnom Penh Municipal Hall, also sent out 64 trucks selling food, vegetables, fish and meats at “reasonable prices” to people in red zones.