After two Japanese tourists attempted to spend a night last week on the steps of Koh Ker temple, about 40 km north of the main temple complex at Angkor Wat, Siem Reap provincial authorities have decided to restrict the wanderings of foreign visitors, provincial First Governor Oung Oeun said Tuesday.
“They slept on the temple,” he said. “They slept there looking at the art on Koh Ker temple on a beautiful night. They were not scared at all about their personal security, but we were concerned for them.”
Police discovered the sleeping tourists that night and returned them to Siem Reap town, Oung Oeun said.
Oung Oeun said officials worry that errant tourists with their own transportation might encounter land mines or bandits.
“Traveling is a fun time for tourists, but [we] are concerned about their security if they just drive everywhere,” he said.
Consequently, provincial authorities last week summoned the town’s thousands of motorbike and automobile taxi drivers to register their vehicles. Doing so costs drivers $8 but gets them instructions on approved tourist destinations and visitation hours and licenses and jackets that advertise their certification.
Oung Oeun said the jackets should increase the number of fares for taxi drivers as they will build customer confidence.
Kim Phally, head of the Tourist Transportation Association, said Monday that his organization welcomes the new policy. However, he said he is concerned that it reverses a ban imposed earlier this month on renting motorbikes to tourists, many of whom may not have experience driving them or know how to negotiate Cambodian traffic.
Hout Borith, head of the National Association of Tourism, agreed that the ban was good, because it kept taxi business brisk. He also said tourists who drive are likely to injure themselves or others or damage the motorbikes.
He said that most motorbike taxi drivers make $7 to $8 a day, so each fare counts.