Taxi drivers frustrated by the bribes they must pay to illegally carry passengers into Phnom Penh have a new strategy for dodging them.
Each day, crowds of passengers entering and leaving Phnom Penh on Route 6A disembark from their transports and walk the 20 or so meters past the Chroy Changva taxi port, only to get back into the same taxi after it has passed through the port.
A city order passed in August requires all taxis to drop their passengers at the taxi ports. The taxis are not supposed to enter Phnom Penh, but can usually do so by bribing the port officials, drivers say.
The bribes are much smaller if the vehicles do not appear to be carrying any passengers.
Taxi drivers have been complaining for months that taxi port operators are extorting money by charging them fees based on the number of passengers they are carrying, in addition to the city-imposed tax of between 1,000 and 5,000 riel ($.25 and $1.25).
“Taxi drivers can save around 4,000 riel or 5,000 ($1 or $1.25) by dropping their passengers” outside the taxi ports, said Municipal Cabinet Vice Chief Heng Vantha.
“After paying the fee to the parking lot owner, every day I drive my minibus out of the parking lot, and get my passengers, who are waiting on the other side,” said Chhay Nylom, who operates a minibus route from Kompong Thom province to the capital.
The taxi port system is intended to prevent crowding on city streets and to protect the business of Phnom Penh taxis and motorbike taxi drivers.
But passengers dislike having to move goods or baggage from vehicle to vehicle at the taxi ports.
“My fruit will be damaged if I transfer it from one vehicle to another,” said Mith Sopheap, a retailer who transports produce to Phnom Penh from Vietnam.
While dropping passengers to walk around the taxi port solves the driver’s problem of high fees and prevents passengers from having to transfer their cargo, the crowds of passengers walking along the road are causing traffic jams, said Heng Vantha.
Taxi drivers like Chhay Nylom say the traffic jams are caused by taxi port security guards blocking the road to prevent drivers from entering the city without passing through the port.
“We are concerned about the many problems related to traffic order along the road,” said Pich Saroeurn, Chroy Changva commune chief. “I have requested the municipality and the public works department to resolve the matter.”
Residents and passengers have complained many times in the past, he added.
In September, the city sent a letter to the owners of all taxi ports threatening to take action against port officials who extort bribes from drivers.