Lao Merchants Turn to Government For Help After Market Burns

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A man walks through a charred and smokey hall in the Dao Heuang market in Pakse district, Champassak province, in  southern Laos, May 17, 2016.
A man walks through a charred and smokey hall in the Dao Heuang market in Pakse district, Champassak province, in southern Laos, May 17, 2016.

Merchants in Laos’ Champassak province have asked the government to find a temporary venue for them to sell their goods after a fire on Tuesday destroyed the largest market in the country’s southern provinces, people associated with the market said Friday.

The blaze, which occurred during the early morning hours in the Dao Heuang market in central Pakse district of Champassak province, caused no injuries because four of the five buildings that went up in smoke were uninhabited, although hundreds of stores were wiped out, they said.

“At this time, we have not heard anything concerning whether they will find new place for us,” said one seller who declined to be named.

“They will locate a new place for selling some retail goods and clothing, but we are interested in where they will locate it,” he told RFA’s Lao Service.

All merchants are seeking help from relevant officials, especially those whose stores were completely destroyed, because they have no other means of making a living in the impoverished country, the merchant said.

“It’s a huge problem, and we are depressed,” he said. “What can we do but sit around and be sad? There is no place to earn money. For all our lives, we have invested in our stores, but now they have burned up and are gone. We have to stay home.”

When RFA contacted an official from the market to ask how local authorities will help those who lost their stores and merchandise and find a new venue for them, he declined to give any details but said Dao Heuang market’s director will notify them about a plan in the near future.

The fire lasted for several hours because firefighters could not access the interior of the market, and authorities are now investigating the incident, according to a report in the Vientiane Times.

A blaze engulfs the Dao Heuang market in Pakse district, Champassak province, May 17, 2016. Credit: RFA RFA
Sellers from all around

The sprawling market drew sellers from around southern Laos’ Champassak province, including members of ethnic minority groups and Vietnamese, as well as local shoppers and some tourists.

Merchants sold everything from household items and metal products to jewelry and clothing in a retail area in the market, and fresh fruits, vegetables, fish and meat in a “wet” market area.

Another fire in Pakse that broke out after business hours in February destroyed 191 shops in a three-story market in Thasalakham village. It is believed that an electrical short circuit caused the blaze, which generated about 12 billion kip (U.S. $1.5 million) in losses but no injuries, the Vientiane Times reported.

Reported by RFA’s Lao Service. Translated by Bounchanh Mouangkham. Written in English by Roseanne Gerin.





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