Tuk-tuk drivers can begin operating at the Phnom Penh International Airport in early May, airport and municipal officials said Thursday following a tense meeting at City Hall.
The meeting followed an April 3 directive from the Council of Ministers ordering taxi and tuk-tuk drivers to compromise on their services at the airport. The tuk-tuk drivers and taxi drivers associations as well as municipal and airport officials have been in negotiations for months over taxi driver protests that cheaper tuk-tuks would take all the business.
“If there’s no problem, tuk-tuk drivers could operate in early May,” said Bun Ny, director-general of the airport.
He said there will be two separate parking lots for the two competing groups, and the airport will alternate customers between the tuk-tuks and taxis, but will have to decide a fair ratio.
Tensions came to a head March 17 when tuk-tuk drivers began operating at the airport without permission. The two groups argued over customers, and the airport banned taxis until the conflict was resolved, though taxi drivers have ignored the ban.
Phav Sothon, president of the taxi drivers association, said at the meeting Thursday that the tuk-tuks will make it more difficult for the 82 taxi drivers to make money.
“I will not be responsible for any clash that might happen when tuk-tuks operate,” he said.
Municipal Governor Kep Chuktema criticized Phav Sothon’s comment.
“I will be responsible over the clash that might happen between you,” Kep Chuktema said. “I am not on the tuk-tuks’ side. But I must follow the government’s directive.”
Luos Seiha, president of the tuk-tuk drivers association, said he was happy about the agreement.
“We, the 31 members, have been waiting months for this day,” he said.
Nydhikun Phav, chief commercial officer of Societe Concessionnaire des Aeroports, which operates the airport, said that as part of the deal, the monthly fee the airport charges taxis will be reduced from $40 to $20 and from $25 to $15 for tuk-tuk drivers.
“I told taxi drivers today that it is a free market,” he said. “There are many choices of transportation.”