Taxi Drivers Hold Rally Against Electric Cars

Motorcycle-taxi and tuk-tuk drivers led a motorized rally of about a thousand people through Siem Reap City on Wednesday to call for lower petrol prices and a ban on the use of electric cars in the Angkor Archaeological Park.

The rally, organized by the Phnom Penh-based Independent Democracy of Informal Economy Association (IDEA), began at 8 a.m. in Kokchak commune, just south of the Angkor Wat complex, and toured various markets in the city before delivering a petition to provincial hall.

“The revenue from Angkor Wat is not falling to the tourist-focused tuk-tuk and motorcycle-taxi drivers and other small businesses. Most of the money goes to big businesses,” Von Pao, the president of IDEA, told the rally.

“Therefore, today, we demand the Apsara Authority get rid of the electric cars so that [motorcycle-taxi and tuk-tuk drivers] can earn some profit to support their family.”

The drivers were supported in their protest by monks from the Independent Monks’ Network for Social Justice, as well as members of various unions and NGOs, including the Siem Reap-based Banteay Srei women’s rights group, Mr. Pao said by phone after the event.

Phieng Samedh, the director of IDEA for Siem Reap province, said that the petition to ban electric cars from ferrying tourists from hotels in Siem Reap City to Angkor Wat was in response to special allowances that are granted to the main electric car firm in the city, the January 7 Company.

Electric cars are “impacting our business,” Mr. Samedh said.

“They [electric cars] are allowed to park and take tourists anywhere they like, while we are not allowed to [do] so,” he explained, adding that taxi drivers in the tourist town will block roads if no solution is found in six days.

Apsara Authority director-general Bun Narith said he would not consider the taxi-drivers petition, and he dismissed their demands accusing them of simply playing politics.

“This is related to politics as the demonstrations are going in Phnom Penh, so they’re just provoking it here,” he said, adding that the January 7  electric car company belongs to the state.

(Additional reporting by Phann Ana)

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