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Sihanoukville police attempt to renew ban on motorbike rentals

Sihanoukville police attempt to renew ban on motorbike rentals

But shop owners balk at a perennially ignored prohibition on doing business with foreign tourists, while taxi drivers hope for extra hires

Sihanoukville authorities recently reminded local motorbike rental shops of a ban on hiring bikes to foreign tourists that was first announced in 2005 and has since largely been ignored.

Prum Po, chief of Sihanoukville Traffic Police, said Monday his men had visited rental shops Friday to tell operators the prohibition stands.

"I have tried to ban motorbike rentals, but the shop owners don't listen to the authorities," he said. "This year I have impounded more than 100 motorbikes. Then I re-educated the shop owners and returned the bikes."

Seang Kosol, deputy police chief in charge of public order, said, "We did this because we are worried about the security of the tourists".

"They just come to visit, and they don't know clearly about where it's safe to travel. If [foreign] people have lived in Phnom Penh a long time, they can rent or buy a motorbike because they know about Cambodian traffic laws."

Maybe so, but they could still lose their bikes in Sihanoukville, according to Prum Pro.

"Some foreigners ride motorbikes from Phnom Penh to Sihanoukville. If they have a Cambodian driver's license, they are allowed. If they don't have one, we take the bike and ask the owner to come collect it."

According to one rental shop operator, the ban has failed because corrupt police do not enforce it.

"When police come to warn us, we give them US$10 or $20, and then we can continue," he said Monday, adding that police drop by about twice a year.

Another motorbike renter, Song Kosal, questioned the wisdom of the policy and its effect on tourism.

"The authorities say they don't want the tourists to have problems with robbers, so they ban motorbike rentals. They should control the security themselves, not impact motorbike rentals," he said.

"When tourists come here, they want to travel freely, so they need to travel by themselves."

On the other  hand, motorbike taxi driver Houy is pleased. "It's difficult to do business when the tourists ride by themselves, because  renting is cheaper than we are," he said.

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