City Targets Service Stations

A city government plan could put informal service stations and car washes around the city out of business.

All stations smaller than 400 square meters on “main, important roads” will have to close, and all others will be taxed, Phnom Penh First Deputy Governor Chea Sophara said at a meeting last week.

The stations include car wash and repair stations and motorcycle wash stations, but not street-side motorcycle repairmen.

Chea Sophara gave no deadline for the action, but said that police have been asked to begin surveying existing stations, checking for licenses and measuring the size of the facilities. After the police survey is complete, a directive will be drafted for the taxation and removal of the stations, Chea Sophara said.

The department of public works and transportation estimates the number of washing and service stations at more than 300. Of those, about two-thirds are unlicensed, according to department estimates.

Chea Sophara gave several reasons for the directive.

The government should be able to make income from these businesses, Chea Sophara said. Some shops abet kidnappers, he maintained. After a car is used in a kidnapping, the shops will repaint them. They also do the same for stolen cars, he said.

In addition, citizens had complained of fires started in the repair shops, Chea Sophara said.

The news was bad for Soy Phala, 28, who operates a small motorcycle wash on Russian Federation Boulevard. The boulevard is lined with similar shops where motorcycle taxi drivers get their bikes sprayed down.

She expressed surprise at the announcement and said she would have to go live with her mother if she was forced to shut down the shop.

Equipped with a rickety wooden platform, an air compressor, water hose and sprayers, Soy Phala said her moto wash—at 1,000 riel per wash—yields nearly $100 a month, much more than her husband’s paltry government salary.

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