Taxi Drivers Aim for Loophole, Dodge Bribes

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.

 

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