The majority of these stall owners have had to pay an initial investment of $3750 US to the market owner for a 2x2 meter plot of land. Most of this money has been borrowed from banks. All of this is now lost, as well as any collateral they offered for these loans, such as small plots of land and livestock. Although these market sellers pay the market owner insurance, about $7.50 each month, the owner is refusing to pay for any of their losses. The police have also threatened to arrest any of the market stall renters if they decided to protest over the next few weeks.
This is such a terrible tragedy for all of us in Trapeang Sess village. This market is the heart of our village. It's where our students go grocery shopping with their mothers in the morning; it's where they buy their clothes and school uniforms; and it's where they go to get their hair cut or get a bowl of noodles for lunch. Everything is in the village market; it's a lifeline for everyone. Shally, BEA’s managing director, was there this afternoon to help his mother go through her own Khmer noodle stall, which was also severely damaged. Like many others, she now has no place to set up and sell her noodles to make ends meet. At the moment, we don’t know how many BEA families have been affected by this tragedy, but we’ll know more once the students are back in class tomorrow.
As usual, tragedy also strikes at the worst possible time. Our landlord surprised us a few weeks ago when he said he would not renew our lease despite many promises that he would just a month ago. Fortunately, we just signed our contract this morning for a new building just down the street. However, the deposit has completely emptied our bank account. In addition to the start-up expenses for the 2013-14 school year, we now need to figure out a way to help the BEA students affected by the market fire. It is most likely that their families will no longer be able to afford their public school fees, and will have to drop out of school and find work. Despite these challenges, we still hope for the best, and will be in our new building for the start of the new school year this September.
The Bayon English Academy (BEA) is an accredited NGO school that provides underprivileged youth with quality English language education with professional teachers in a safe, clean environment in Siem Reap, Cambodia.