Hundreds of angry tuk-tuk drivers gathered outside the Khmer Economic Development Party’s Phnom Penh headquarters yesterday, after the party pulled out of an ambitious two-day rolling rally at the last minute.
The president of the seven-month-old party, Huon Reach Chamroeun, entered into an agreement with about 350 drivers, promising each between $20 and $25 per day to drive around Phnom Penh throughout Thursday and Friday to promote the party, drivers said.
On Reach Chamroeun’s request, drivers arrived at the party’s headquarters early yesterday morning, said Ou Chan Sophak, 35, who woke up at 5am in order to make the 20-kilometre drive from his Kandal province home.
But when the drivers arrived, party officials told them that, as it turned out, their services were no longer needed.
“I took money from home to fill up petrol and hoped to earn it back today,” Sophak lamented. “I do not know how to tell my wife about this; we do not have money for this. I am ashamed.”
Party officials did promise to pay the drivers in excess of $8,000 altogether for the two-day tuk-tuk campaign, said Hang Channan, the KEDP’s deputy secretary. But they had to back out of the deal because they had not heard from party president Reach Chamroeun, who was in Thailand collecting $10,000 for the campaign, Channan said.
“He went to get the money to rent the tuk-tuks and other campaign equipment, but he is missing now,” Channan said yesterday. He added that Chamroeun had already spent about $1,000 on loudspeakers and merchandise featuring party logos.
Whether the party’s president made an effort to fund the rolling rally made little difference to hundreds of drivers like Khon Vuthy, 34, who could have spent his time earning money from regular fares.
“We did not pick up customers so that we could arrive at the headquarters on time,” Vuthy said. “Yet the party breached their promise and did not pay us.”