Prime Minister Hun Sen’s adviser Om Yentieng announced Wednesday he would help establish a committee to address the concerns of taxi drivers who protested this week against new tolls imposed by AZ Investment Co Ltd on National Route 4. Meanwhile two taxi drivers who participated in Tuesday’s demonstration against the toll were charged with inciting others to commit public disorder in Kandal provincial court.
Ten representatives of the taxi drivers met with Om Yentieng, who is also director of the government’s Human Rights Committee, at his Phnom Penh office on Wednesday morning.
Om Yentieng said he will ask Deputy Prime Minister Sok An to bring taxi driver representatives to the table with AZ Investment and government officials.
Taxi drivers blocked tollbooths Monday and Tuesday demanding that AZ Investment lift the charges introduced this week. Taxis are now required to pay $1.40 to take National Route 4 from Phnom Penh to Sihanoukville.
AZ Investment, chaired by CPP lawmaker Ung Bun Hauv, was granted a concession to maintain the road and to collect fees under a deal opposition lawmakers charge lacks transparency. “We will ask the company to reduce the prices,” Om Yentieng told reporters after the meeting. “If the company cannot reduce prices, we also do not know what to do.”
He said the government will reduce financial pressures on drivers by eliminating illegal police checkpoints and illegal parking fees on city streets.
Taxi driver representative Kim Givorn said drivers will stop holding protests ahead of the committee’s decision. Drivers Thorn Than and Om Sam Ol were charged under Article 60 of the Untac law, “Incitement Not Leading to Commission of a Crime or Misdemeanor,” for their participation in protests Tuesday. “We have no law to charge people who hold a demonstration,” Kandal provincial Chief Prosecutor Chheng Phath said.
One driver, Sok Kunthy, was beaten bloody by police Tuesday. Chan Soveth, spokesman for rights group Adhoc, said Adhoc will file a complaint in Kandal provincial court seeking $1,000 from police on Sok Kunthy’s behalf.