Residents of northwestern provinces said they have stopped using their cars, taxis and motorbikes, blaming skyrocketing gasoline prices and crackdowns on cheap smuggled gas from Thailand.
Sok Kim Hen, deputy customs chief for Battambang province, confirmed Sunday that officials are cracking down on smuggled gasoline. He blamed the crackdown for rising gas prices. He said additional military police and customs officers have been sent to provinces along the border to stop the smugglers. The smugglers sell gasoline for about half the local rate because they don’t have to pay Cambodia’s high gasoline taxes.
“We confiscated more than 18,000 liters of smuggled gasoline at Kamrieng district on Friday, and we are continuing to stop smuggling in this area,” he said.
National Route 5 between Phnom Penh and Battambang was quieter than usual Friday and Saturday. Many taxi drivers have stopped working, citing gasoline prices that have risen from about $0.30 per liter to $0.63 to $0.70 per liter in the last three weeks.
“I have stopped driving my car,” said Toem Sarorn, who works National Route 5. “Before I could make some money because I used smuggled gasoline. But now they are cracking down on smuggling and the price is getting too high.”
Lim Kheng Leang, who has driven his taxi along the Phnom Penh-Battambang route for 10 years, said gas prices have also forced him to stop, though he hopes to return to work if fuel prices fall.
“I stopped running my business three days ago, after the price of gasoline got too high,” he said. “I don’t know where I will go and what I will do in the future.”
Drivers, passengers and villagers along National Route 5 said they were worried the high prices would make things even harder for those trying to make a living.
“The government’s economic policy is suffocating people,” said Battambang businessman Meas Nang on Saturday. “They are killing people with the high price of gasoline.”