Prime Minister Hun Sen said yesterday he would establish a foundation to support the preservation of cyclo drivers, whose numbers are down to only about 200 in Phnom Penh.
Speaking to about 13,000 workers in the capital’s Russei Keo district, Mr Hun Sen said the foundation would support cyclo drivers’ livelihoods and preserve the cyclo for tourism.
“I will create a foundation to support the cyclo,” he said. “On one hand, it will attract tourists and on the other, it will help cyclo drivers.”
He said he would donate about $25,000 and continue to put $2,500 into the foundation every month. “So I will spend 120 million riel (about $30,000) every year,” he said.
He said the money for the foundation would not come from the state budget, but from humanitarians instead.
A cyclo is a three-wheeled, pedal-driven vehicle that was popular in the past, but most local people now use motorcycle taxis instead.
The Prime Minister encouraged the younger generation to use cyclos, which are now mostly seen carrying foreign tourists.
As an example, he said France is a developed country but has preserved the horse drawn carriage.
“So we should preserve the cyclo in our country,” he said.
Mr Hun Sen also announced that cyclo drivers, like garment workers, could receive free medical treatment at state hospitals.
“They would receive treatment free of charge because they are also informal workers,” he said.
He asked the president of the Cyclo Association and Vorn Pov, president of the Independent Democracy of Informal Economic Association, to discuss the legal framework around forming a foundation.
“We aren’t abandoning anyone’s ideas if they’re trying to help society,” the Prime Minister said.
Mr Pov applauded the initiative to create a cyclo foundation that would improve the livelihood of Cambodian people.
“I have met some cyclo drivers who want to give up their jobs because people don’t really use that service any more,” he said
Mr Hun Sen also said some money from the cyclo foundation would cover costs for cyclo drivers when they are sick and unable to work.
Im Sambath, president of the Cyclo Conservation and Careers Association, said he was shocked the Prime Minister had paid attention to the livelihoods of cyclo drivers.
“The foundation will promote the livelihood and healthcare of cyclo drivers,” he said.
He said there were more than 200 cyclo drivers in Phnom Penh who earned from $100 to $150 on average per month.
He also praised the Prime Minister for providing free medical treatment to drivers, most of whom are old and in poor health.