Taxi Drivers Spike Prices

The new year is proving so far to be a prosperous one for taxi drivers ferrying passengers to the provinces.

Over the past week, taxi drivers said they are nearly doubling their fares to drive travelers to their home villages for the Khmer New Year celebrations.

Driver Pich Sothy, 26, said he is charging travelers $3.50 from Phnom Penh to Kompong Cham province, up from the usual price of $2 per person. Passengers going to Battambang provinces are charged $8.50, compared with the regular price of $6, he said.

“We understand that our people currently cannot earn much money, but we have to double charge,” Pich Sothy said Wednes­day. Sok Bunthoeun, also a driver, said that with the exodus of Phnom Penh residents heading to the countryside, taxis are re­turn­ing to the capital empty.

“We need to charge them double price, otherwise we could not earn a profit,” he said.

Still, Pich Sothy and Sok Bun­thoeun said, they expect $20 profit per day during the holiday.

Taxi drivers traveling along National Route 4, however, la­ment­ed that they are unable to earn as much during the new year holiday as they can ordinarily.

“During the holiday, there are many illegal checkpoints set up to extort money from drivers,” said Tan Socheat, who drives between Phnom Penh and Sihanoukville. With the addition of the new, controversial toll charge set up by the AZ company, he is earning about $15 a day, he said.

Nuon Sophal, a maid at a Phnom Penh hotel, said her job pays her $35 per month, so each year, she asks taxi drivers for a discount to bring her back to her home in Svay Rieng province.

“Some taxi drivers are kind, but some others always double charge,” she said.

Another traveler, Mao Sophea, said she fears traveling on the highways at this time of year, since many drivers pack dangerously high numbers of people into their vehicles to maximize profits.

“I experienced during my trip home last year, a 12-seat [minibus] taxi took 22 travelers,” she said. “Taxi drivers do not care their load is overweight.”


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