Bamboo Train To Be Preserved...Mostly
Just a quick update today to summarize several major recent events.
After much negotiation, and a plea to Prime Minister Hun Sen to preserve a section of the railroad (and the downtown Battambang rail station) for usage as a tourist site, the Government has promised that the bamboo train will indeed be preserved. Discussions initially indicated that the norry would be moved towards Wat Kor and the original drivers replaced with government-approved drivers (under the guise of "safety"), but these plans proved impractical. Currently, the government is promising that the modern railway will be built around the section of track that houses the bamboo train. Villagers will be allowed to continue the operation of the train as per usual.
While this news is certainly a victory for the villagers of the bamboo train, locals have begun to argue with the government about management of the site. Calls for media attention are also increasing, as the government has slowly increased its presence at the site, allowing the police to receive more money from each ticket sold. Indications are that actual hard tickets will be sold by the Ministry of Tourism in future months, giving the money directly to government officials without passing through the hands of the operators first. The villagers have a complicated profit-sharing system they've employed for two decades and the government's arrival is interrupting this process. As one local stated, "Every year we see more and more tourists visiting the bamboo train, yet we don't make much more money than before. The police take the extra money for themselves. We operated the bamboo train for tourists for 15 years before the police came to 'protect' foreigners. Why didn't they care before, when it wasn't as profitable? We built the train, shouldn't we be able to operate it as we choose and see the profits from that effort?"
Updates on these developments will be posted as they are reported.
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A collection of news about the bamboo train and the development of the Cambodian railroad