More than 100 taxi drivers protested in front of the Takeo provincial police headquarters Wednesday over new regulations that force them to use a private toll road recently built in the province, officials said.
Local firm Leng Sovanrith Co began constructing the detour road linking Takeo town to National Route 2 last year, and initially charged taxis $0.25 and trucks $0.50 to use the road.
On Wednesday, provincial authorities blocked taxis from using public roads and forced them onto the Leng Sovanrith toll road where the firm now charges $0.83 for taxis and $3 for trucks.
“The company requires us to pay too much for using the road,” said taxi driver Dang Kosol, 44, who has traveled the Takeo-Phnom Penh route for 11 years.
“The governor and police have now installed a tall barrier preventing us from using the state road to reach the provincial town,” he said.
Forty minivans tried to protest in front of the provincial governor’s office but were blocked by police vehicles. The protesters then decided to protest at the provincial police headquarters.
Protesters later met with the firm’s director, provincial governor Srey Ben, and police to discuss the increased tolls.
“We want them to charge us only 1,200 riel [$0.30],” protester Im Ly said.
Srey Ben, of the CPP, confirmed by telephone that the toll road was a private concession granted to the Leng Sovanrith company.
“There are more private school buildings along the main street in the provincial town which is why we need all taxi vehicles…to use the detour road to reduce traffic jams and road accidents,” he added.
Leng Sovanrith, director of his self-named firm, said that he spent about $600,000 to construct the 4-km detour road and was awarded a government contract to collect tolls for 30 years.
“We need to charge [vehicle owners] more,” he said. “We cannot concede to their demands because we could not earn a profit.”
Taxi driver Som Prin said the new charges make it hard for him to make a living.
“The price of gasoline is up everyday, now they prevent us from using the state road…how can we earn money for our stomachs?” he said.