Phnom Penh officials confiscated a dozen tuk-tuks in Chamkar Mon district last week in what they said was an attempt to maintain public order.
Boeng Keng Kang 1 commune police chief Kul Sophat said police seized 12 tuk-tuks from the area around Wat Lanka and Street 278 at 3 am on Dec 28.
“Tuk-tuk drivers gather to play cards, to drink beer or wine and sleep on the street in the night. Their actions can make public disorder,” he said.
Mr Sophat said the order to take the tuk-tuks had come from Phnom Penh governor Kep Chuktema, who could not be reached for comment yesterday.
Daun Penh district governor Sok Sambath said confiscating tuk-tuks when their drivers slept in them or gathered to drink together had been a policy in his district for about two years, during which time district police had rounded up about 50 vehicles, including 10 in December.
Mr Sophat denied the Chamkar Mon seizures were related to the Jan 15 to 21 Asean Tourism Conference, although Mr Sambath said he had instructed his Daun Penh police officers to crack down on napping or noisy tuk-tuk drivers in anticipation of the conference.
“We do not want them to affect public order while foreign country’s customers come to participate in meetings in our country,” he said.
In May 2009, authorities impounded dozens of tuk-tuks and cyclos on the riverfront prior to that month’s Asean-EU meeting. A 32-year-old tuk-tuk driver based in Boeng Keng Kang 1, who did not want to be named, said he was arrested on Dec 28 while sleeping in his tuk-tuk. He retrieved his vehicle yesterday, after paying a $10 fine.
“Police said this money was for the cost of keeping [the tuk-tuk] safely,” he said.
Thok Sokhom, director of the international cooperation and Asean department at the Ministry of Tourism, said he did not know anything about the confiscations and hoped they were not connected to this month’s conference.
(Additional reporting by Lucy Jordan)