Although Cambodians have learned to expect it, paying twice the bus or taxi fare to go home for Khmer New Year had some people calling for the authorities to put a stop to the annual price hikes this week.
Upon Seth said Phnom Penh Sorya Transport Company charged him $6 for the bus fare from Siem Reap to Phnom Penh, which usually costs $3.
“It’s too expensive but we don’t know how to protest because it’s simply due to the Khmer New Year,” he said.
“It’s not unusual in a big festival like this,” said Seng Socheat of his taxi fare to Kompong Thom province, which cost $3.75 instead of the usual $1.75.
Ma Sythav, general manager of Sorya Transport, defended the practice, saying his company raises fares each year—this time from April 12 through April 17—to pay staff extra for working during the New Year holiday.
“We have to pay them three times as much as on usual days,” he said, adding that people are accustomed to the holiday rates.
But that shouldn’t make it right, said Nuth Chorn, who travels every year to Kompong Cham town.
“The bus companies should not take this opportunity to increase the price,” she said.
Nhem Saran, director of the Phnom Penh Department of Public Works and Transportation, said he told bus companies to stop raising fares.
“It is very difficult to take any action against them during the festivities,” he said.
Thong Khon, Tourism Ministry secretary of state, said his ministry issued a directive advising hotels, restaurants and recreation sites not to overcharge during the New Year, but this did not apply to transportation.
Leng Thun Yunthea, Transport Ministry director-general, said he had not heard of the fare rises, but even if he had, the government would not be able to stop it.
“To me, it’s a free market, so they can compete with each other,” he said.