Spiraling Gas Prices Squeeze Motorbike Taxis

When Ek Sein sold his small plot of land in Prey Veng province early last year to move to Phnom Penh with his wife and three children, he hoped to earn enough money as a motorbike taxi driver to pull his family out of poverty.

But though he works tirelessly every day, Ek Sein, 39, said the rising price of goods, especially gasoline, has dashed his hopes. Earlier this month, he sent his family to live with his parents in Prey Veng’s Ba Phnom district.

“It’s a pitiful life in Phnom Penh,” Ek Sein said last week. “I could not save enough money to sup­port my three children be­cause I earn too little while the price of gasoline increases sharp­ly day after day.”

In Phnom Penh gasoline has increased some $0.20 per liter in recent months and now hovers around $0.73 per liter, spawning pro­tests and forcing many to scramble for survival.

Kruoch Van has kept his 8-year-old son out of school be­cause he cannot pay the fees, he said last week. In 2001, he sold his small plot of land in Svay Rieng province to buy a motorbike for taxi work in Phnom Penh. Now his family can afford to eat only one meal each day, his wife, Srey Samon, said. “Govern­ment leaders say that they reduce poverty, but poverty is actually widespread,” she said. “We are be­coming poorer and poorer.”

Ou Saroeun, who drives a taxi be­tween Phnom Penh and Bat­tambang, said he has raised fares by $1.25 per passenger to about $6.25. “The government presses us, and we press people,” he said. “The people are suffering.”

Motorbike taxi driver Pou Nassy, 29, said he can’t charge his customers more money, though each trip costs him more.

“I still charge my customers the same price because otherwise they will go with other mo­tor taxi drivers,” he said.

The high price of gasoline is in­creasing the cost of many goods, Banteay Mean­chey pro­vincial governor Thach Khorn said.

“The cost of everything is higher be­cause transportation is more expensive,” he said.

Motorbike and car taxi drivers joined students and others in a June 1 protest against rising gas prices, which are nearly double those in Vietnam and Thailand. They asked the government to reduce the gasoline tax, which is about 100 percent, and to cap the price of gasoline at $0.38 per liter.


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