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Remorks: Not in my city, says Sophara

Remorks: Not in my city, says Sophara

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No home, no job, no income: motor-remork drivers in silent protest against a city ban.

A

round 100 drivers of three-wheeled motorbikes, known as remorks, protested a decision

earlier this year by the Phnom Penh municipality that outlaws their vehicles and

with it, their livelihoods.

Remork driver Lon Narim said he was angry at the muni-cipality's ban. He said he

had sold his farmland in Svay Poul village in Pearang district, Prey Veng, to buy

his vehicle.

"The Phnom Penh municipality instituted the ban after we bought the motorbikes.

I have no house to live in," Narim said. "Now I want the municipality and

importer to buy our bikes back."

However, neither the importer nor the governor of Phnom Penh, Chea Sophara, are interested.

Sophara has put his own prestige at stake over the issue.

"I absolutely will not allow them to run in the city. I will consider it a personal

disgrace. Those remorks should be run in Afghanistan and India, not in my city,"

he told the Post.

One importer, who brings the bikes here from mainland China, and who insisted on

anonymity, said she imported 30 bikes last year. If the municipality stuck by its

decision, she would not order any more.

As for her now disgruntled customers: "I will not buy their bikes back because

they are old now," she said.

The drivers, many of whom are demobilized soldiers from the provinces, said they

came to the capital to find work. They said they did not want to drive motodups due

to the growing number of robberies. They maintain that remorks are safe from the

robbers who plague motodups.

Sok Seng, who represented the group, said he was robbed while working as a moto-taxi

driver four years ago. He was mystified by the municipality's insistence that they

quit Phnom Penh, and insisted remork transport was safer for both drivers and passengers.

Seng pointed out a scar on his neck that he said was the result of the 1997 robbery.

He said the experience of being knifed four times made him determined to leave the

life of a motodup driver and turn to remork driving instead.

Another driver, Bouth Vichet, said the decision of the municipality meant he would

incur a large loss. He said that he had bought his bike with a $500 loan from Acleda

bank - a leading micro-finance institution in Cambodia - using his house to secure

the loan. Now, he says, he still owes the bank money and has no means to repay it.

He said working as a remork driver in the countryside promised a poor living, since

he could charge only 300 riel per trip.

"[But] in the city I can make 10,000 riel a day for my family after I have paid

for five liters of gasoline," he said.

"I would like to appeal to Prime Minister Hun Sen to help poor people like us,"

said Vichet.

"If the Phnom Penh municipality does not respond to our demand, we will have

to keep protesting."

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