High Gasoline Prices Mar Holiday Spirit

Thousands of garment factory workers and other residents are leaving Phnom Penh for the pro­vinces during this week’s Pchum Ben ceremony, but taxi drivers said Monday that their usual holiday-season bonanza has been hit by the high price of gasoline and increasing taxi station charges.

“I could earn only a small amount of profit, compared to pre­vious years’ Pchum Ben festival, even though we increased travelers’ charges over that of ordinary days,” said taxi driver Uk Bunthoeurn.

Fares increased to $2.50 from than the standard $1.25 for each of the 20 passengers Uk Bun­thoeurn fits into his 15-seat taxi that follows the route between Phnom Penh and Suong commune in Kompong Cham pro­vince.

Even still, “nobody can reduce the price of gasoline, so we are seriously suffering,” he said.

San Proek, who drives a taxi between Phnom Penh and Bat­tambang town, said he spent about $200 on gasoline and made about $200 profit during last year’s festival, but he didn’t ex­pect to fare so well this year.

Additionally, nobody is traveling to Phnom Penh, he said. With everybody leaving the capital, taxis remain empty on the return trip from the provinces, which further increases costs.

The Pchum Ben crowds began fleeing Phnom Penh on Friday, paying $10 each rather than the usual prices of between $2.50 and $6 for the trip to Battambang.

“Most taxi drivers between Phnom Penh and Battambang al­ways buy gasoline in Battambang town, because it is cheaper than in Phnom Penh,” San Proek said.

Travelers are aware of price hikes during festivals, but in past years taxi drivers have helped those short of money with a re­duced fare to Kompong Thom pro­vince, said garment factory worker Luong Srey Noeurnm. But this year was different, she said.

“We have to pay, or the taxi drivers will take other travelers,” she added. “Gasoline, food and other daily necessities’ [prices] are increasing drastically, but my wages at the factory are still low.”

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