Phnom Penh City Hall on Monday canceled a contract with a local construction company that had been operating a pair of tollbooths on Street 2004 in Sen Sok district to raise funds for the road’s ongoing construction and maintenance.
Phnom Penh governor Pa Socheatvong said that Sarla Investment Group was tapped to build Street 2004, as well as others in the district, about 10 years ago, and because the government could not afford to pay for the construction, an agreement was reached to allow the company to recoup costs by collecting tolls for a period of 30 years.
But when City Hall recently asked Sarla to raise the standard of its construction, the company asked the municipality for permission to increase the toll, and to extend its contract period, Mr. Socheatvong said.
“The company wanted to charge much more money from travelers than before, so that’s why we decided to cancel the contract,” he said.
The governor would not reveal how much the contract with Sarla was worth. He said the municipality would reimburse the company for its losses, and assume responsibility for constructing and maintaining the road.
Sok Huot, the owner of Sarla, said he did not know how much the city would pay him to terminate the contract.
“The government will offer me compensation, but I don’t know how much,” he said, declining to comment further.
Mr. Socheatvong said that before canceling its contract with Sarla, City Hall had attempted to persuade the firm not to impose the toll on local residents—without success.
“We asked the company to be sympathetic to the residents traveling the road and not charge them, but the company refused because they had spent a lot to build the roads,” he said.
“We decided to reimburse the company to put an end to the problem.”
Residents living along Street 2004 said Sarla began imposing the $0.25 toll three or four years ago.
“They shouldn’t have to take money, because it’s not a long road,” said Uom Chamroeun, 45, whose family has been living in the area for the past 20 years. “We live in the middle [of the two tollbooths] and had to spend too much money just traveling to work.”
Khim Kosal, 40, said he drove through the tollbooths at least three times per day.
“If they take money from only the vehicles passing through, it would be better,” he said. “But we live here. How can they get away with taking our money every day?”
(Additional reporting by Sek Odom)
© 2015, All rights reserved.