Morm Thida motodup

Morm Thida was born in 1991 in Phnom Penh. She lives with her four brothers, three sisters and her widowed mother. She is one of Phnom Penh’s few female moto-taxi drivers, or motodups as they are referred to locally. She usually works during the evening on the lakeside (Street 93)

Yos Katank
August 1, 2009
Morm Thida motodup
A female Cambodian motor-taxi driver (L) transports a commuter in Phnom Penh. Photo: Tang Chhin Sothy / AFP

Why did you choose to become a motodup?

I have always enjoyed riding motorbikes and I used to borrow my friends’ bikes to explore the city and surrounding areas. While riding last year, I noticed there were motodops on every corner of every street and that’s when I realised I could make a living and support my family doing something I love. My brother bought me a motorbike [Daelim 100] last year, so I left school at Grade 8 and began working about five months ago. It is only a part time job. I work from 6pm to 2am and during the day I study English.

Which is your area?

You can usually find me outside the Mosquito bar and the Drunken Frog at lakeside. I have regular clients and the bar managers often recommend me to their customers.

How much do you earn a day and how do you spend it?

I don’t earn a lot of money but it is a regular income. I can earn anything from $5 to $8 a day. I spend most of it contributing towards the education fees of my two younger brothers and food for the family. What little I have left, I save for my English classes and to buy little treats for myself.

What challenges do you face as a female motodop?

To be honest there aren’t that many challenges as the job isn’t difficult. My English language skills are improving on a daily basis and I know my customers, who are mainly Khmer bargirls and foreigners, well. If I don’t know where my customers want to go I simply ask them to direct me. Most people, from my experience, would rather I ask than pretend to know where I am going. I avoid dangerous situations by only taking people I know and I never take someone who is too drunk.

The roads can be dangerous at night, how do you take care of yourself and your customers?

I wear a helmet for my own safety but I also drive carefully and at a sensible speed so my customers feel safe. It can be dangerous driving at night because many of the other drivers are drunk and drive too quickly. I just have to be aware all of the time.

Have you ever faced any problems?

No, not yet. If I were to find myself in a dangerous situation, I would shout for help or call for my brother who is often nearby. He takes care of me. He knows how to fight and acts as my personal bodyguard.

Do you ever get any criticism from people?

Every one does what they can do to support their family. I don’t listen to what other people have to say. I am the only person who can judge what is the best decision for my family and me.

Do male motodops feel threatened by you?

Well of course I am competition, just like any other motodop. But they are not jealous or bitter, in fact they support me because we are like brothers and sisters and they know I am just doing what I can to support my family.

Do you know of any other female motodops?

Yes, there are a handful. I know of some who work near the Heart of Darkness and at Tuol Sangke market. Most of them are different from me though because they keep their hair short and dress like men.

Would you like to see more female motodop drivers on the streets?

Definitely, I wish that I wasn’t so alone on the streets. It would be great to meet up, have a laugh and support each other. I also hope to see an independent association of female motodops established. The men have done something similar and I think it will bring many benefits.

If you were to marry, do you think your husband would mind your choice of profession?

I can’t imagine he would mind. If he can find another job for me that pays more, then great, I’ll try that.

What do you plan to do in future?

I would like to learn how to cook and one day I would like to run my own restaurant serving Khmer and western food.

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