Thousands of second-hand cars imported from America, Europe, Japan and Thailand flood Phnom Penh’s streets every year. But before they hit the asphalt, they occupy hundreds of parking spaces.
Car imports are up by 20 percent over last year. With the economy expanding at a brisk pace, car sales are on a roll. Sales of second hand vehicles far outstrip new sales and are fueled by new accessibility to car loans.
Instead of standing in the lots of faraway suburban auto dealerships, hundreds of vehicles stand for sale on Street 108 in the Daun Penh area. This privatization of public space starts at the police station near Freedom Park, stretches to the Psar Chas old market and then around the block along both sides of Street 106.
Ironically, Street 106 is adjacent to the Ministry of Public Works and Transport, the authority charged with regulating public order and traffic.
Traffic laws bar vehicles from parking on a public road for more than 72 hours – three days. They also must provide a distance of one meter between vehicles at the front and rear.
But the cars that pack these two streets often are single and double-parked for weeks on end, preventing local residents from parking. They prevent a free flow of traffic through narrow streets, particularly during peak hours, and block municipal street cleaners doing their job.
As Phnom Penh has no public parking, car dealers using streets as sales lots only tightens the city’s parking squeeze. Rational city planning would relegate car sales to areas with cheap land, such as the east bank of the Tonle Sap river.
Who sells these cars? There is a mix of vehicles from local car dealers and cars sold by individual owners.
Khmer Times spoke to two people selling vehicles on Streets 106 and 108.
A 73-year-old man, who spoke on condition of anonymity, said: “I pay one dollar per day to the local security guards to put my car here, but it only stays here from 6am to 6pm. They come around in the mornings to collect the money, but when I can’t afford it, I don’t pay.” He estimated that 300 to 400 cars are parked for sale on the streets at any one time.
A female car vendor, who also asked not to be identified, confirmed the arrangement, saying: “I pay $30 per month per car to the Khan and have three cars for sale at any one time”.
When contacted, the Deputy Governor of Daun Penh District, Mr. Sok Penh Vuth, said he could not comment on the matter as it is outside his responsibilities.
Daun Penh District Governor Kouch Chamroeun said that this was a “private enterprise matter,” and therefore definitely would not involve security staff employed by the district government. He believed it was most likely an arrangement involving a private security company, whom the government licensed to look after the area. He said car vendors may be confused about who actually collects the cash.