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
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
But now, a driver can pay just a few hundred riel to fewer
This dramatic change is believed to have followed a recent
speech on transportation security by Prime Minister Ranariddh.
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.
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.