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PHNOM PENH – Presented with a movie, meal, medicines and a $20 cash handout, Cambodia’s cyclo taxi drivers received a rare treat at the weekend, and a brief distraction from hard times as the coronavirus takes a toll on tourism.

Hundreds of drivers who are struggling to make ends meet were seen sprawled out in their pedal-driven vehicles during the special screening on Saturday, when a makeshift movie theatre sprang up in a grassy yard in the capital Phnom Penh.

They were shown the new film “Fathers” by local director Huy Yaleng, about a cyclo driver’s daily battle to support his family.

“I teared up. I remember how I had to do anything and everything to support my family,” said Sun Sokhorm, 67, a cyclo driver for 34 years.

“The story felt like my own story.”

Cambodia’s cyclo drivers have long been a popular choice for visitors keen to take in the sights and enjoy the buzz of Phnom Penh at a leisurely pace.

But the coronavirus pandemic’s devastating impact on global travel has seen tourist numbers plummet, even though Cambodia has reported less than 500 cases, with no deaths.

Sokhorm earns about a third of what he made before the pandemic, sometimes as little as $3 a day.

“There’s not much left over, but I can survive,” he said.

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