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Taxi drivers feel safer on northwest roads

Taxi drivers feel safer on northwest roads

T he two roads connecting the five northwestern provinces with the capital have

become less tense security-wise during the last few weeks, say taxi-drivers and

their passengers.

Previously famous for ambushes and robberies conducted

by bandits, the Khmer Rouge and undisciplined government soldiers, Route 5 and

part of Route 6 are now apparently safer.

Route 5 links Phnom Penh with

Kompong Chhnang, Pursat, Battambang and Banteay Meanchey, and Route 6 brings

together Siem Reap and Sisophon.

Sim Chamroen, 34, a soldier-turned

driver, said he had difficulty taking passengers from Pursat to Battambang.

Apart from frequent ambushes, the taxi-drivers still had to feed the

great many, mainly unlawful, check-points.

At each one soldiers had been

demanding between 3,000 to 5,000 riel to cross their zones, said

Chamroen.

But now, a driver can pay just a few hundred riel to fewer

check-points.

This dramatic change is believed to have followed a recent

speech on transportation security by Prime Minister Ranariddh.

Sellers

have blamed the high price of local goods, especially meat and vegetables, for

the difficulties they have bribing their way through check-points.

However, taxis are still facing some security problems driving on the

road between Sisophon and Siem Reap where drivers still have to pay a few

thousand riel at each of the ten check-points.

And passengers are also

advised to hide money, gold necklaces and watches in case of ambushes and

robberies which occasionally occur, especially later in the afternoon.

A

taxi-driver who asked for anonymity said most of the incidents were conducted by

unruly government soldiers.

According to many taxi-drivers and owners of

passenger boats, the same problems are still taking place in other provinces in

the north and northeast.

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