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Tuk-tuk drivers protest fares

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More than 100 PassApp tuk-tuk drivers gathered on Wednesday to protest against the firm’s move to reduce fares in response to stiff competition with other ride-hailing apps. Heng Chivoan

Tuk-tuk drivers protest fares

More than 100 PassApp tuk-tuk drivers protested on Hun Sen Boulevard in the capital on Wednesday to demand that prices be restored after PassApp Technologies Co Ltd announced plans to reduce the fares that drivers rely on for their daily income.

This was the second time the drivers had expressed their dissatisfaction about the price reduction after they gathered on Tuesday in the Boeung Kak area.

A letter from the drivers to PassApp said: “We will stage demonstrations in front of the company and protest to have the company shut down. If there are no solutions, we will present a petition to [Prime Minister] Samdech Akka Moha Sena Padei Techo Hun Sen.”

The protesters are demanding that PassApp restore fares to their previous level – with the first kilometre charged at 3,000 riel [$0.75] and a rate of 1,200 riel per kilometre after that.

They also insist on the commission they are charged being returned to 13 per cent from the new 15 per cent and have asked the company for life and vehicle insurance.

A PassApp employee, who asked not to be named, told The Post on Wednesday that the company had decided to reduce its fares this month in response to competition because PassApp had seen that it was charging more than other companies.

The employee said PassApp would hold discussions at senior management level and would take the drivers’ demands into account.

“A lot of tuk-tuk drivers have contacted me and we told them that we’ll make a report to the top management first and that the issue is under consideration to see if they can increase the fares,” the employee said.

Keo Nary, a 33-year-old tuk-tuk driver who has used PassApp’s service since 2016, told The Post on Wednesday that more than 100 tuk-tuk and taxi drivers had gathered again to collect their thumbprints and present a petition to the company demanding that it restore the old price structure.

“I want the company to keep the original prices. We don’t want more than this. When the company lowers the price, a 10km journey will fetch only 8,000 riel – and 15 per cent is cut [as commission]."

“Let’s think – 8,000 riel to transport [a passenger] a distance of 10km? There is very little money left after paying for the gas,” Nary said.

‘The victims were the drivers’

Besides petitioning PassApp, the tuk-tuk drivers have also presented their letter to competitor Grab to urge it to also increase its fares.

Independent Democracy of Informal Economy Association (Idea) deputy secretary-general Long Vuthy said it was not altogether surprising in the free market that PassApp had decided to lower its fares to attract clients. But, he said, the victims were the tuk-tuk drivers.

Vuthy said there were a plethora of tuk-tuk drivers in Cambodia and people should “think twice before choosing this career”. “This competitiveness takes its toll on the drivers. If the company wants to compete by lowering prices, please reduce the commission so the drivers have some money left over. Otherwise, the drivers will suffer,” Vuthy said.

There are currently more than 20,000 tuk-tuks in Cambodia.

Tuk-tuk driver Mok Phalla said: “We’ve made these demands because other companies don’t have as many customers as PassApp.

“That’s why I still want to use the PassApp service. But when the company lowers prices, I’m worried that profits will decrease to the extent that I can’t support myself.”

Phnom Penh Municipal Hall spokesman Met Meas Pheakdey told The Post that the authorities would attempt to help both parties reach a compromise.

“On Wednesday evening, we met them to hear their concerns and we just finished. So we’ll meet with a working group to seek a joint resolution to the problem,” Pheakdey said.

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