Logo of Phnom Penh Post newspaper Phnom Penh Post - "Cyclo Kings" all have the moto blues



"Cyclo Kings" all have the moto blues

"Cyclo Kings" all have the moto blues

PHNOM PENH'S 'Cyclo Kings' have fallen on hard times. The men who own and hire cyclos

to, in general, the city's poorest say most of their fleets are idle in their yards

collecting dust.

Even though cyclos are still popular in the rainy season, motos have taken over as

the most favored means of transport.

Poorer workers, many of whom traditionally come in to the city from the provinces

during the dry season to make some extra cash, are finding it tougher to rent out

cyclos from those who own the cyclo fleets.

Teang Pon traded his way to become one of perhaps 20 or so 'Cyclo Kings' in the capital

during the 1980s and early 90s - a most profitable time for him. But today he is

a worried man. His children are poor, he doesn't have access to an old age pension

and at 65 he's looking for another job.

"But I don't know what job I can do," he sighed softly. "Now I am

an old man and I am not strong."

Pon tells a "Rise and Fall" story that is echoed by other cyclo "magnates"

spoken to by the Post.

Pon was born and grew up in Saang district, Kandal province. Working hard to live

off the land he never had time to go to school but prospered well enough to move

to Phnom Penh in the early 70s, when he and his family opened a shop.

That business disappeared in April 1975 when the Khmer Rouge marched down Monivong

Boulevard. The next three years was simply, he said, a struggle to survive: "I

had to go to Battambang and work building houses but at that time there was no food

to eat. Life was terrible - three of my daughters died of starvation."

Pon, unlike so many others, somehow made it through three plus years of the Pol Pot

regime and returned to his land in Kandal. In 1980 he moved back to Phnom Penh where

he sold stoves and within a few years had enough money to buy eight cyclos.

Things went well and within a short time his fleet had expanded to 16 three-wheelers,

busy all the time, hired out to itinerate drivers for 2,000 riel a day.

"Then I never had to do anything. All my cyclos were busy and they gave me a

lot of money. With the money I made I could feed ten people," he said proudly.

But that was then and this is now.

"In 1983 it was easy to earn money with cyclos because there were no motos.

But now there are many motos, they are cheap and get people around the city quickly."

Now, only two of his cyclos are routinely rented out and "I can not live on

4,000 riels a day - I do not know what to do," he said.

Most of his drivers came from Prey Veng, Kompong Speu and Takeo where, according

to Pon, irrigation schemes have improved productivity to a point where many people

no longer need to come to Phnom Penh for seasonal work.

"Now they can grow rice in the dry season so they don't come to the city looking

for work. If they do come most are rich enough to buy a moto - sometimes when their

moto is stolen they come back and they can sleep in my house without paying money.

But not many are interested in being cyclo drivers anymore."

Pon said that unless business picks up soon, he will have to find another job, if

he can.

"I have told my children to work in construction to make money because driving

cyclos doesn't make enough money for me to live.

"I have no choice. Our society has no homes for the old people, we just have

pagodas. I must depend on my children to give me money to live.

"But my three children earn only 50,000 riels a month. They can not live well

so they find it difficult to feed their parents as their parents used to feed them.

"I do not know what I shall do."

MOST VIEWED

  • Kingdom's Covid cluster cases jump to 194

    The Ministry of Health on February 25 confirmed 65 new cases of Covid-19, with 58 linked to the February 20 community transmission. The latest cluster cases include nine Vietnamese nationals, five Cambodians, one each from Korea, Singapore and Japan, with the rest being Chinese. This brings the total number

  • Locations shut, dozens more Covid-19 positive

    The Ministry of Health has closed 23 locations in connection with the February 20 community transmission of Covid-19 and summoned for testing anyone who had direct contact with affected people and places. The number of discovered related infections has risen to 76, including 39 women. In a press release,

  • Cambodia's Covid cluster cases rise to 137

    The Ministry of Health on February 24 recorded 40 more cases of Covid-19, with 38 linked to the February 20 community transmission. Of the 40, two are imported cases involving Chinese passengers. The 38 include two Vietnamese nationals and one Cambodian, with the rest being Chinese. This brings the total cases

  • Covid cluster raises alarm, health bodies urge vigilance

    The Ministry of Health and the World Health Organisation (WHO) in Cambodia have expressed great concern over the February 20 cluster transmission of Covid-19 in the community. Both entities appealed for vigilance and cooperation in curbing further spread of the virus. Ministry spokeswoman Or Vandine said

  • PM confirms third Covid-19 community transmission

    Prime Minister Hun Sen on February 20 announced the Kingdom's third outbreak of Covid-19 community transmission after 32 people tested positive in just over 10 hours. Addressing the public from his residence after an emergency meeting, Hun Sen said: "I dub it February 20 Community Event, in which 32 cases

  • Cambodia to make auto-rickshaws

    Locally-assembled electric auto-rickshaws could hit the Cambodian market as soon as early in May after the Council for the Development of Cambodia (CDC) gave the greenlight to an investment project at the weekend. According to a CDC press release, it will issue a final registration