Tuk-Tuk Drivers, Motodops Feeling Pinch From Gas Price Increase

Some people understand; some people get angry; and some people just find another driver when they find fares higher than they expect.

That’s become a more and more common experience in the past few months as gas prices have increased, say tuk-tuk drivers and motorbike taxi drivers, commonly known as motodops.

Since November, the average price of “premium” gasoline has increased from about 4,040 riel per liter at Phnom Penh’s four major gas stations to about 4,900 riel Wednesday, an increase of about 17 percent. Motodops and tuk-tuk drivers say they are feeling the pinch and trying to pass it to customers.

“Overall, we just earn enough to live,” said Luos Seiha, president of a motodop and tuk-tuk drivers association. “It will lead some of us to bankruptcy,” he said of the fuel increases.

Some motodops say they are charging at least 1,000 riel more than they had last year, while some tuk-tuk drivers say they are asking for a dollar more for the average trip.

Luos Seiha said things began getting difficult for the drivers in the middle of last year, and the fare increases are 100 percent a reaction to inflation.

Neang Kunthea, a tuk-tuk driver working on the city’s riverside, said with the tourist high season trailing off, gas prices have hit particularly hard and cut into his savings.

“It’s made things very difficult,” he said.

He now asks for about $2 for a ride from the riverside to Phsar Tuol Tom Pong, double what he charged several months ago. But, he said, people sometimes talk him down to $1.50 or less.

Compounding the problem is that some tourists carry outdated guidebooks with outdated price guides for taxi rides.

“They don’t believe that this is the price. I tell them the guidebook is very old,” Neang Kunthea said. “Some people don’t understand that gas prices are high.”

He said he now has less money to save for things like health care and tuk-tuk maintenance.

“I’m worried for my family if something happens to me,” he said.

On a corner on Street 278, motodop Sar Samet said he doesn’t charge lower than 2,500 riel for rides these days, though he was willing to accept less than 2,000 riel just a few months ago.

“Some people complain that the price is too high, but many understand,” he said.

He said that some motodops have boosted their fare prices because they tend to ride around looking for customers and consequently burn up gas in the process.

At Phsar Thmei on Wednes­day, some people waiting for motorcycle taxis said they understood that the drivers were only trying to make a living amid rising prices, though one woman, who wouldn’t give her name, said she couldn’t afford the extra fares.

“I think they are being greedy,” she said.

(Additional reporting by Pin Sisovann and Chhorn Chansy)

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