Crossing Cambodia

Thursday, December 14, 2006

Democracy and traffic

Today (14 December, 2006) from the Cambodian Daily a rather endearing story about an opposition party legislator / parliamentarian and the obvious way to treat a traffic victim. Obvious as there is the age old Cambodian traditional tendency to either blame the victim (and claim compensation) or to do a hit-and-run and pay for the funeral expenses (if public opinion sees this necessary). Another possibility is to a paper-scissors-rock game with one of the possibilities exchanged by a pistol or something more menacing. Hankies ready?
Lawmaker Apologizes for Hitting Man With His Car

By Saing Soenthrith

SRP lawmaker Cheam Channy has agreed to compensate a pedestrian after his car collided with the man in Phnom Penh on Tuesday evening, police and the lawmaker said Wednesday. Kun Sophal, 41, was crossing National Road 6 in Russei Keo districts Prek Leap commune at 7:30 pm when he was struck by a Toyota Camry driven by Cheam Channy, breaking at least one rib and leaving him unconscious, commune police chief Kong Saroeun said. He added that Cheam Channy stopped at the scene of the accident helped get Kun Sophal to Calmette Hospital and agreed to pay compensation. Cheam Channy said Wednesday that he was assuming responsibility for the accident, though Kun Sophal had stumbled into the path of his vehicle. "We are very sorry that the victim got heavily drunk and walked into our car," Cheam Channy said. "I am responsible for the accident. It was not politically motivated. I was returning from work in Kompong Cham province," he added.
Are there elections coming?

Wednesday, December 13, 2006

Vrom Vietnam

By just skimming some resources in Vietnam it is surprising what you could find. Here from Vietnam News:
Ha Noi strive to ensure improved traffic safety

Ha Noi meaning Vietnamese authorities. Striving to cope with increasing traffic and traffic associated problems, the local authorities in both Hanoi and Ho Chi Minh city have drawn up long term plans to decrease the relative numbers of accidents and casualties. Partly this is ensured by road reconstruction, partly by education but there is also a prominent role for law enforcement.

The same article goes on to describe why accidents happen:

Lack of awareness and poor knowledge of traffic rules together with underdeveloped infrastructure, relaxed law enforcement and lack of public awareness campaigns were to blame for traffic accidents in Viet Nam.
The question is raised why such analysis does not take place in Cambodia? Surely speeding and drinking are not only to blame? Another interesting aspect is the drop in the number of reported traffic related deaths in HCM city. This seems to be a pattern as the same seems to be occurring in Phnom Penh. Here it surely not related to any obvious measure instigated. Crossing Cambodia's own theory is that as streets get clogged, speeds drop, which not necessarily means less accidents but rather that accidents are less dramatic. Witness Vientiane, Lao PDR where speeding and zipping around are pretty normal (still) but accidents result often in deaths.

Tuesday, December 12, 2006

Adopt a traffic policeman revisited

What happened just now? An official traffic police motorbike with two policemen halts on Norodom Avenue. One policeman jumps off and throws himself into the oncoming traffic. The third car is possibly the culprit (of what?) and is told to pull over. The Toyota Camry looks like it is pulling over but on the edge of the road, the driver continues. The motorcycle (minus 1 policeman) pursues and they argue while driving down the road, this made possible by the driver having the steering wheel on the wrong side. Within Crossing Cambodia's eyesight the car does not stop.

So what? In nearly every country in the world, when a driver is asked to pull over, he/she does so. Not in Cambodia. Having a nice uniform plus ditto motorcycle is not sufficient to enforce the law; too much of public / private life is regulated outside law. That much is obvious. But when will the realization start that even in such unimportant affairs such as driving down the road that rules are needed, need to be applied and need to be obeyed?

Stating Staistics

'Nearly 2,000 Traffic Casualties in October' captions an article in yesterday's (December 11, 2006) Cambodia Daily by daily reporter Liz Tomei. In a quest to fill the newspaper with local content, the Cambodia Daily seems intent on presenting monthly statistics on how the casualty list is doing and finding some new novel ideas to 'solve the problem'.

According to the Road Traffic Accident and Victim Information System (RTAVIS), 110 persons died, 506 were 'seriously' injured (what is serious? is this not subjective?) and 'nearly' 2,000 casualties were reported nationwide in October 2006. This represents an increase of 64% in deaths and 13.5% in total number of casualties over October 2005. However in Phnom Penh a drop was witnessed of 12 percent of road casualties (representing roughly 20-25% of the total number). This clearly puts a perspective on the presented statistics: October was a relatively 'normal' month calender wise with hardly any national holidays in which Phnom Penh appears to be deserted, everybody up-country), so such a drop could not be expected.

The October report goes on to state that the casualties were 'caused' by speeding drivers (41%) and 93% were caused by human error. Is it not so that the casualties are caused by accidents? That the factor 'speeding' is simply an aspect of the cause? How can 7% not be explained by human error?

Handicap International spokesperson also reveals that he believes the source of the statistics is broadening meaning automatically that an increase is to be expected. So was there an increase or not? The same spokesperson brings up the 10% financial aspect.In spite of what is customary in Cambodia, he proposes to use this amount of each investment made in the transport sector to install:
'safety features such as traffic signs, lane dividers and marked school zones'.
As Handicap International follow this blog avidly, they should be well aware of the senselessness of such measures: traffic signs are at best used as a pole for setting up a noodle shop, surely they are not there to be follow-up upon? Do we live in the same universe?

Finishing on a positive note the government stresses that the draft traffic law will be discussed this week nonetheless:
'After the law is approved, the first priority will be to educate the people ... The second priority will be to educate the traffic police',
Ung Chun Hour, deputy director general of transport at the Transport ministry is quoted.Well, since when did traffic police fail to meet the people criteria?

Even more positive Tin Prasoer, chief of the much criticized (= literal quote of the mentioned article, certainly not Crossing Cambodia's personal opinion, then again ...) municipal traffic police (did the Cambodia Daily run out of capital letters?) stressed that the drop in casualties in Phnom Penh (erm, ... he is not really reflecting on the statistics but perhaps on knowledge out on the street?) was directly due to the most recent order to install wing mirrors. Though compliance only toke place in December we might have to wait for the jury's verdict on that. He then dashingly dared to suggest:
'The next step is perhaps helmets'
Now what is the relevance between helmets and the number of casualties ?

p.s.: Crossing Cambodia must apologize that this article in the Cambodia Daily and this blog on the article failed to mention the two words in this context:
'law enforcement ....'

Wednesday, December 06, 2006

Smuggling and traffic safety

Smuggling apparently takes place on a large scale. At least that's what this Cambodia Daily write up reports.

Eight hundred cars have been smuggled over the border at 2 border crossings with Thailand since March this year. The article does not mention how it has been determined that there were 800 vehicles smuggled, a wild guess / underestimation? Anyway, at current levels there are many vehicles with their steering wheels on the wrong side, a potential traffic hazard as the drivers have insufficient overview of the road situation. Has anyone driven in a car with the steering wheel on the wrong side?

Earlier this year as a measure to broaden the road tax base, all right handed steering vehicles were allowed to register and should be paying tax. Obviously this also assists the smuggle: if right hand steering would have been forbidden (due to safety concerns) then this smuggling would not have taken place.

So what that this has been discovered? A couple of fines here and there (as high as the profits of the corrupt custom officials?) and now try to find an alternative strategy for importing cars.


For the past 6 months Crossing Cambodia has been researching the link (if any) between how traffic is conducted and the nation / society of Cambodia. But today's (December 6, 2006) Cambodia Daily publishes a Letter to the Editor which could have been a copy of this site's various blogs. The letter:
Parents tend to to advise their children to drive slowly and carefully. This is not necessarily bad, but it will not guarantee road safety and solve congestion.
Shaving off Phnom Penh's sidewalks, widening the roads and installing concrete dividers are also not long-term solutions. Indisciplined driving and the lack of traffic regulations are causing congestion.
There are many red lights and people rarely stop for them. But traffic signs could ease congestion at most intersections.
There are many issues that could ensure traffic safety. These include helmets, seat belts, protective seats for children and rear view mirrors. Lane dividers should be made of plastic and filled with water. Reflective devices should be used to mark out lanes, so they can be distinguished at night.
Extensive use of cell phones, watching karaoke videos on in-car television screens, and drivers failing to indicate when they are turning are all problems. So are people driving the wrong way down one-way streets.
There are also very few signs in Phnom Penh indicating speed limits. Undisciplined driving is a reflection of the country as a whole and we all have contributed to it. If one obeys the traffic law, traffic will flow smoothly. Disciplined driving can paint a good picture of a society we all live in. Vorak Ny, Phnom Penh.
A misconception: traffic signs are being ignored so they can hardly be a solution to congestion problems.
The writer in general understands the problems, but fails to come with good solutions. Law enforcement seems to be the most logical solution. If even red lights are being ignored how can more traffic signs and voluntary calls for disciplined driving help?

Can disciplined driving paint a good picture of society? Yes, but maybe society reflects itself on traffic habits, so if society as a whole does not become more disciplined, traffic is doomed to remain chaotic. Or not?

Enforcement in progress

This morning on Monivong. An even day so no parking on the west side. This driver was luckily on time, otherwise his car would have been impounded. Got off, backed up and parked around the corner.

From the press: Mirror Mania Mayhem

Mirror mania has caught up with the Cambodia Daily. Yesterday's (5 December 2006) issue has an article (with assistance from the KI site) with the following curious caption:
Police to fine Motorbike Drivers Without Mirrors
The curious does not refer to the difficulting in understanding the lead (do moto drivers need mirrors or do their moto's need mirrors?), but Crossing Cambodia seem to have problems with a logical sequence of events: government announces measure, government announces date (december) in which to comply and on said date starts to enforce the announced measure. Seems logical, but this is not the case, apparently, as traffic police are already doling out fines and non-police officials are still having their doubts:
But Deputy Municipal Governor Pa Socheatvong said police should only start to warn drivers without mirrors today, and that it is still too early to start fining them.

"We need to give more time for residents to install the mirrors," he said. "We also strongly ask vendors not to sell the mirrors at a much greater price."
Probably he wants to uphold the age-old Cambodian tradition of legislating and non-enforcement.

What's more surprising is that it seems very serious ( see other blogs), moto's are being fitted with mirrors! There is also some concern with corruption:
"Anyone who is fined will be given an invoice to make sure that they will not be fined several times in one day," Touch Naruth (chief of municipal police) said by telephone.
He adds:
"We strongly believe that the order to install mirrors on both sides of motorbikes will reduce accidents."
Well, that remains to be seen. Crossing Cambodia believes that if something changes it would mean more accidents: more chances to catch the mirrors on something / someone.

The main problem is that the measure, when introduced, was meant to increase the use of mirrors, but not necessarily for combing ones' hair. How this will be enforced has apparently not be researched. But it is the thought that counts.

Then finally there has been some leeway for police and public to barter the height of fines. Apparently: there is also a 1000 riel discount
'if their mirrors are deemed too small or improperly positioned'.
Now what are the official requirements for size and position?

Tuesday, December 05, 2006

Monday, December 04, 2006

Central chaos

From the Cockroach Corner of the December 2006 issue of Bayon Pearnik:
Central Chaos
'Yes the consultants are at it again. The south west of Central Market around the bus station is being cut off from the rest of the market to aid traffic flow.
Once the cops have got bored with enforcing the new rules (one week) it will be interesting to see how multi-dimensional the flow gets.
These ideas work in the west but the consultants always forget the ingenuity of local motos in finding ways round rules'.
See also this posting:
Curious I

Wednesday, November 29, 2006

Mirror Mania

As posted last week, there has been a sort of mirror mania over the last 7 days. Mention has been made of fines for offenders and there are increasing amount of mirrors to be seen. Usasge however varies. This morning's Lucky Supermarket mirror check, revelaed 6 moto's with both mirrors, 2 with just 1 mirror and 4 moto's with no mirrors at all. All a great increase over last week!

The Cambodia Daily yesterday (28 november 2006) published a letter to the editor which focussed on the long length of time that supposedly takes to get mirrors installation enforced. But clearly the author is not paying sufficient attention.The letter does conclude with:
'In my opinion, installing mirrors alone will not help reduce accidents. Drivers also need helmuts'.

And they also need to know what side of the road to drive on. And heed traffic signs. And refrain from cutting corners. And... Problem is there is enough law in place, but not enough .....

Tuesday, November 28, 2006

Curious II

What does this sign, posted along Monivong mean? No parking on even days. Additional info mentions 'odd days', '60 minutes' and bizarrely a symbol for an old fashioned in Cambodia non-existent parking meter. Now when you are in the law enforcement business would it not be advisable to keep the message short and simple? And what is the relevance if everybody is allowed to park on the side-walks?

Curious I

This morning Crossing cambodia checked out the newish situation near the central / new market. At the end of Boulevard Charles de Gaulle, a loop has been created preventing traffic turning in the direction of the market. This photo shows that on the actual point, two signs were put indicated where to go/ where not to go. Possibly the umbrella is meant for someone to add a physical obstruction. Does it help? Not really cars and motorcycles just face more problems.

Khmer customs (?)

A blog entry on the khmer 440 site sums up their impression of Khmer driving skills (or lack thereof ...) Conclusion:

'So road rage is alive and well in Cambodia, maybe I should take a leaf out of the book of our Khmer Government hosts’ and just shoot the bastards that piss me off. After all, everyone keeps telling me that I should respect their culture more…'.
In the same vein contributions have been coming in on the 440 forum site:
'Last Wednesday, within 24 hours I saw 2 major bike crashes happening in front of my eyes'.
Which got me thinking: how fucking difficult can it be to lauch a MAJOR campaign on tv, lets say around the favorite Khmer soap, or the leader's speeches? It's not like traffic regulations are rocket science. Cambodia needs a few rules and things would go a lot safer, not to mention smoother'.(rukker)
'The problem is enforcement. Thanks to corruption, the police, especially the traffic police, are worse than useless. And even more so, since driving habits are partly a social or cultural issue - affecting change here really requires a strong and respected authority, which is not a very accurate description of the police'.(barangbarang)
'Of course you need enforcement. But many Khmers honestly think that their behaviour is ok because that's the way it's developed over many years. Thing is: by now there is so much traffic that things that were going smoothly in the past, now create gridlocks and accidents all over the place'.(rukker)
'I saw an accident on the riverside in front of The Lounge, I believe it was. A guy in a silver Lexus SUV comes out of a side street and turns left onto the riverside(Sisowath Quay) at the same time as another older SUV hits the gas. This was about 1am. The older SUV smashed the back of the Lexus with extensive front-end damage to his SUV and with not as bad damage to the Lexus. I was perplexed as the Lexus owner and friend got out to survey the damage but the other driver and passanger didnt get out. I asked the guy who runs that Mexican restaurant on108 street and he seemed to know the guy driving the lexus. He said the accident was more than the drivers life was worth'.(kimcheemonster)
More accounts of untoward actions and free advise as is often dispensed in this blog.

An interesting development over the last few days has been in the increase of mirrors on motorcycles. Crossing Cambodia has witnessed this first hand and actually seen people buying mirrors! But, as is the case exemplified from the khmer 440 forum site, some enforcement may go astray. Apparently according to this forum posting, police are also persuing legislation enforcement of laws not yet passed ....:

'Alleged fine is 5,000 riel for each missing side view mirror. (...) It felt weird at first having mirrors again, but I like it. Can see the thieves coming now and race off!

Rumour has it the helmet law will be passed in 2 months, although some police are already enforcing it, although it doesnt exist yet'.

Thursday, November 23, 2006

Letter to the editor: Road paving

More asphalt, possibly, street 282

Following this weeks article in the Cambodia Daily, today's (23-11-2006) Cambodia Daily Letter to the Editor section Sao Volak vents his ideas:

a. congestion has made traveling in Phnom Penh harder,

b. road improvement seems related to increasing traffic fatalities (no proof provided),

c. accidents occur due to the construction of concrete dividers.

He then suggests that wider roads will lead to less congestion, but fails to delve on the issue brought forward i.e. relation between road improvement projects and increasing fatalities. In the end the letter is very ineffective, the writer fails to bring good arguments: more road gives only temporary reprieve from congestion, there is more need for public transport / mass transport systems. Possibly the problems are as of now not problematic enough...

Tuesday, November 21, 2006


An overview of all traffic signs at ABC driving instructions. Apparently they are there to give a more professional appearance, there are no instruction manuals.

Above the law?

From the KI site an extensive report of a dog (1) which managed to hold up the Cambodian's PM daily procession from his home outside the capital to wherever he deems necessary.

Uncouth dog! You dare cut in front of the PM’s car, get him!!

19 Nov 2006
By Seyha
Salanh Khmer

Translated from Khmer by Socheata

A laughable but yet scary incident occurred when a dog dared cut in front of the car procession of Prime Minister Hun Sen.

The incident occurred north of the roundabout circle in Takhmao city, Kandal province, on Thursday afternoon when Prime Minister Hun Sen’s car fleet returned from Phnom Penh to his secure Tuol Krosaing camp.

Sralanh Khmer witnessed this event at 5:05 PM when Mr. Hun Sen’s car procession led by a siren-blaring car and followed by a swarming number of bodyguard cars sped by. Alongside the road, military police officers and regular police officers are standing shoulder to shoulder to prevent people from crossing the street. A police officer holding a microphone, yelled orders to people not to cross the street in order to prevent any accident to the prime minister. Suddenly, a reddish color dog ran cut in front of the police officer trying to cross the street. Hearing the loud voice of the officer from the microphone, the dog was startled and stopped in the middle of the street, undecided what to do next. Meanwhile the prime minister’s car procession arrived, and it was forced to abruptly brake in order not to hit the uncouth dog who does not know the traffic rules and who is not afraid of the prime minister’s car procession.

Seeing this, the police officer who was holding the microphone to yell at people not to cross the street at the arrival of Mr. Hun Sen’s car procession, started to yell loudly: “Stop, stop, you uncouth dog … Get him! Get him! Get him! Don’t let it get away.” The dog, hearing this, turned around and crossed in front of the row of police officers. The police officer with the microphone, very angry with the entire ordeal, yelled: “Get him! Get him! Get that uncouth dog which dares cut in front of Samdech Prime Minister Hun Sen’s car procession.” Nevertheless, they could not catch the dog which ran too fast and escaped.

Meanwhile, the traffic was at a standstill, people waiting in the traffic were laughing at the police officer. They said that this dog is lucky, if it were to be a human being, and that person would dare cut in front of Samdech Hun Sen’s car procession like the dog did, that person would be accused of being a terrorist wanting to assassinate Mr. Hun Sen for sure. The would-be traffic cutter would have been arrested, handcuffed and sent to spend time in Prey Sar jail without any question asked.

People living along the road from Phnom Penh to Takhmao used by Mr. Hun Sen’s car procession, are very bothered by this procession because each time the procession passed by, traffic is stopped by police officers and bodyguards. Furthermore, the siren sound is blaring very loudly. That was why people are happy about the lucky fate of the dog who dared cut across Mr. Hun Sen’s car procession on Thursday afternoon.

Not only is traffic closed when the prime minister leave his Tuol Krosaing home to attend the council of ministers’ meetings, but he also orders the traffic closed when he needs to go out to play golf. People were very frightful for the dog’s fate when they saw it cutting across the prime minister’s car procession. They are now happy to see the dog came out unscathed and caused a lot of commotion to the police officers instead.

Kep Chuktekma, Phnom Penh governor, used to say that dog meat is delicious, and he even told Phnom Penh city dwellers to eat dog meat. Therefore, if the angry police officers were to call and tell Mr. Kep Chuktekma by phone, he would never pardon this daring dog.

Traffic signs: no parking on (un)even days

A signboard implying that it is forbidden to park on this side of the street on uneven days, the first, third, fifth, seventh, etc.) Just the one car not staying on the right side of the law.


Motorcycles parking at the Sihanouk Boulevard Lucky Market store. Despite the intentions of the municipality, there is no sudden rush for mirrors. Of the 26 motorcycles, 1 had both mirrors, two had 1 mirror and the rest had no mirror. Law enforcement?

Monday, November 20, 2006

In Phnom Penh Post Police blotter an overview of incidents mentioned in Khmer newspapers in the past 2 weeks:
  • 1 injured (chopped several times), 1 moto stolen
  • 1 dead (shot), 1 moto stolen
  • 1 injured 9shot in the arm), 1 moto stolen
  • 1 injured (shot in the head), 1 motorbike stolen
  • 1 injured (chopped on the head), 1 moto stolen?, 3 arrested
Law enforcement?

Sound Bites ?

On Sunday a ceremony was conducted to mark UN's World day of Remembrance for traffic accident victims. Again it was used to highlight the increasing number of traffic deaths in Cambodia. An article in today's Cambodian Daily (November 20, 2006) quotes the director of the Phnom Penh municipal Red Cross office (Chhoeng Ngan):

'The high death rate [should it not be the increasing death rate, high implies some kind of comparison, CC] is due to the fact that many Cambodian motorists are unfamiliar with or disobey traffic regulations'.
True as may be, in most countries governments protect traffic participants from each other and/or from themselves by drafting laws and making sure the law is enforced. Just yesterday I witnessed a car crashing into a motorbike on street 51, where the car should have stopped (there was a big stop sign). Why can the current feeble attempts at regulating traffic not be enforced?

On a postive note the same periodical mentioned that a senior provincial police officer arrested his son who was accused of shooting a student in class. This in spite of a sudden lack of witnesses....


Friday, November 17, 2006

Traffic law will crack down on ...

Police without helmets

Novel ways to 'reduce traffic'

In today's (November 17) Cambodian Daily, an article on the widening of Phnom Penh's main road, the Russian Federation Boulevard. Three meters on each side. Phnom Penh's Municipal Governor Kep Chuktema 'expects the enlargment will reduce 50 % of the traffic jams along this boulevard'. The article then quotes the Governor that 'there were unfunded plans to pave all unpaved streets in Phnom Penh to further reduce traffic'.

Well let's say that last quote was a typing mistake, more asfalt attracts more traffic, streets getting wider results only in a shift in the traffic jams.

Wednesday, November 15, 2006

Traffic Law (continued)

An extensive article in today's (November 15, 2006) Cambodia Daily about the ongoings of the draft Traffic Law. Hopefully, if you are interested in the complete article, some other blogger will post it...

Previously, Crossing Cambodia reported on this back in September. The article suggests that possibly as of next week the traffic law could be passed by the parliament, Cambodia's National Assembly. Some caution remains: When the law is passed, the ministry will focus on educating traffic police about the enforcement of the law. How long will that take, optimistically a couple of months?

Anyway the article also highlights the increasing traffic accident situation. It also mentions:
'unofficial figures show that there has been "enormous growth" in the number of vehicles in Cambodia".

Bump 'em (continued)!

In today's (November 15, 2006) Cambodia Daily a short report about a top adviser for prime minister Hun Sen who was 'rear-ended' on the Russian Federation Boulevard, for no apparent reason. The adviser then approached the offender but when the offender 'reached threateningly into his trouser pocket' the adviser retreated, which in light of several incidents in the past weeks seems to be quite sensible.
The report finishes with a quotation from an army general, whose roll seems unclear (he's a former head of military intelligence and current deputy director of the Apsara Authority, a government organisation which is managing Angkor Wat):
'Many government departments concerned ... had no leads yet in the case'.
Is this an example of anarchy?

Here is a link to the full article.

Traffic signs: one way, no entry

Street 63 from the central market to Sihanouk Boulevard is a one way street.This sign implies that vehicles should not drive into this street as it is a one way street.

Effective? In a 5 minute burst just before 10.00 am this morning, 1 car, 20 motorcycles, 1 cyclo and 2 bicycles drove up street 63 in the wrong direction. In considering these figures one must note that there are regularly traffic police standing on the crossroad with Sihanouk Boulevard (there's a big tree giving ample shade), so there is some caution with drivers to disregard this sign. At the same time there were roughly 25 cars and 175 motorcycles using street 63 in the correct direction, which also makes it physically difficult to drive in the wrong direction.

Conclusion, this traffic sign is regarded as a indication, not as a directive. Law enforcement?

Highway robbery?

From the Cambodian Newspapers Kampuchea Thmey and Samleng Yuvachun translated on the KI site:
The local firm Sarla has been accused of conspiring with Takeo provincial authorities to set up a detour to collect illegal tolls on a section of National Road 2 that stretches from the province to the Vietnamese border, newspapers report.

The company reportedly charges 2,500 riel to 10,000 riel (US$0.60 to US$2.40) based on the type of vehicle for use of a 500-meter detour it built in Lorry village, Daun Keo district, reports Kampuchea Thmey. The company has allegedly constructed a two-meter barrier on the section to force drivers onto the detour.

Hundreds of residents, businesspeople and vehicle owners have thumb printed a complaint to Prime Minister Hun Sen over the money extortion, according to the newspaper.

Drivers lament that the detour is not necessary as the government has completed renovation of the road section with a grant from the Japanese government, and that Sarla should have built the detour before the renovation, writes Samleng Yuvachun Khmer.

The newspaper describes the company as doing business like “making a cake without flour.”

The two newspapers fail to report any reactions from provincial or company officials.

Comment: strange things happen, but Crossing Cambodia does not fully comprehend the situation at hand. Is it really that a company blocks a major highway and demands toll...

Friday, November 10, 2006

Our Lao reporter

An article from the Lao State press agency. Apparently they are trying to reduce accidents there as well. Same problems, drunk driving.

Road accidents go on claim lives of Vientiane resident

(KPL) Despite the number of road accidents decreased in Vientiane last week, the road accidents continue to claim lives of Vientiane’s residents.
This is according to the record of Vientiane Traffic Police Station (VTPS) showed that there was two people died caused accidents, out of 34 cases of accidents occurred from 16 to 22 October.
“The last two weeks, the figure of accidents have had 42 cases caused three people died, counting for over 130 million kip of damaged cost compared to last week figure went down”, said a senior police of VTPS.
The main cause of accidents occurred in Vientiane is attributed to road users violated traffic rule and drunk and driving. The accidents in Vientiane usually occurred with motorbikes.
The accidents like to happen during holiday or in the weekend, 6 to 9 pm because people drunk in this period.
The students are not the main group related the accidents but it is a group of workers and civil servant. The Sikhottabong and Xaysettha districts are the top of accidents happened.

Update on petrol prices

A slightly older article posted ion the KI site originally reported from Agence Presse in Vietnam. Apparently it's not all small-timers involved in the smuggling of fuel:

HANOI, Vietnam(AP) - Authorities in southern fined three Cambodians for smuggling more than 6,000 liters of diesel out of the country, a border official said Tuesday.

The smugglers from Kampot province in southern Cambodiawere intercepted last week in Vietnamese waters with 6,300 liters (1,660 gallons) of diesel in their boat, said Nguyen Huu Tai, the deputy chief of Xa Xia border checkpoint in Kien Giang province.

The government of Kien Giang fined the Cambodians 2.2 million dong (US$140; euro110) each on Monday for illegal entry and illegally transporting goods across the border, Tai said.

The men were released Monday after paying their fines, he said.

Vietnam estimates that hundreds of thousands of liters of fuel are smuggled into Cambodia daily, causing substantial losses to Vietnam's government which heavily subsidizes the price of fuel.

Diesel is about 5,000 dong (31 U.S. cents; 24 EU cents) cheaper per liter in Vietnam than Cambodia, Tai said.

"It's impossible for us to completely control the fuel smuggling because the border is long and we have a shortage of staff," Tai said.

The Vietnamese government is expected to pay 12.8 trillion dong (US$800 million; euro621 million) in fuel subsidies this year.

Vietnam exports crude oil, but imports refined oil products. Its first oil refinery is under construction in central province of Quang Ngai.

National highway?

Despite Siem Reap being the major tourist attraction of Cambodia and Thai being one of the most avid visitors the road between Siem Reap and the border, a national highway, continues to be a huge eyesore. Here's a report via KI from Pattaya News.
From Phnom Penh municipality a message of congratulations to themselves for fixing a potholed thoroughfare, street 63.

Update: price of life

An update on yesterday's accident report in which an Acleda Bank director managed to kill 2 two people as well as cause four accidents. Apparently the victim's families will receive just under 1000 $US. Both Acleda Bank and the local police seems to be getting the idea that this was a serious incident. Two links: DAS and KI.

Update 2: The culprit is fit enough (from what? a severe headache?):
Accused Hit-and-Run Driver To Return to Work
Monday, November 13, 2006

By Douglas Gillison

An Acleda Bank manager accused of a series of hit-and-run crashes that left two people dead in Battambang province is due to return to work today, the bank's General Manager In Channy said Sunday. Police allege that Sok Chanrithy, director of Acleda's branches in Battambang and Pailin municipality, was drunk when he crashed his speeding vehicle four times Nov 4. Sok Chanrithy has been on vacation since the alleged incident, In Channy said. The bank will compare Sok Chanrithy’s report on the incident with the police report before deciding what to do about the case, he said. He declined to say whether Sok Chanrithy could be fired. Sok Chanrithy could not be reached for comment.

Thursday, November 09, 2006

From the press: supporting the traffic police

From today's (November 9, 2006) Cambodia Daily the front page story entitled: Lack of respect Plagues Capital Traffic Police. The article describes how everybody in Phnom Penh tends to disregard the traffic police. Handicap International spokesperson claims :
'the population has a lack of respect for police'.
And :
'they make fun of police'.
The chief of municipal traffic police claims:
'they [traffic police] perform a valuable public service'.
The article then goes to exemplify the traffic police's problems with an unsuccessful case of trying to fine a government employee who missed a red light. They apparently are only able to apprehend 1 in 5 of the offenders and of those they do apprehend only 1 in 10 pays a fine.
A sorry state of affairs?

Then the article starts to get derailed:
'four traffic policemen ... said that the money that everyone sees them taking from drivers are in fact donations; acts of generosity by the public'.
The aforementioned chief then explains that the fine amounts are 2.50 $US for cars and half price for motorcycles, but these can also vary due to the severity of the violation,
'Please feel pity for them [traffic police]'
he concludes the article.

Well, Crossing Cambodia doubts that there are many takers for the pity story. Claimshave been made as to the willingness of traffic police to fine the lesser vindicators, i.e. those not in a shiny car. Offenders have been fined for ' driving with lights on', which seems to be against Cambodian common sense. What happened to leading by example?

Wednesday, November 08, 2006

Innovation please

From neighboring Saigon this report in the Vietnam News of 16 October,2004!:

Traffic cameras in HCM City catch more than 4,000 in act

HCM CITY — Cameras have caught 4,208 traffic violators since being posted at roundabouts and intersections around HCM City on September 10, with motorcyclists accounting for 81 per cent of the total.

Police said 46 per cent of violations involve wrong way travelling along one-way streets. Other violations include speeding, running red lights and overloading motorbikes with passengers or cargo.

"Violators of traffic regulations must be fined heavily and vehicles must be temporarily seized," said Nguyen Van Dua, Deputy Chairman of HCM City’s People’s Committee.

Offenders received pictures of the violations at their homes; violators have paid 27.5 per cent of the fines issued, ranging from VND50,000 to 100,000. "This shows the initial success of the city’s new plan to reduce traffic violations," Dua said at a meeting on Tuesday in which he reviewed the one-month use of traffic cameras in the city.

To step up the fight against traffic violations further, Dua urged traffic police and cameramen to regularly patrol small streets, one way streets and areas with new traffic re-direction plans.

He said raising traffic safety and awareness of regulations, while encouraging people to observe traffic rules, is key to keeping the streets safe.

This week, cameras will be installed in areas where daredevils often organise motorbike races, and on national highway black spots where there are a high number of accidents.

"Fines will also be imposed on pedestrians and cyclists caught violating traffic regulations," Dua said.

The city People’s Committee approved the instalment of 22 new cameras in the city’s intersections. This month, the city will invest VND7.7 billion (US$490,000) to put cameras in operation.

HCM City’s authorities are determined to reduce traffic accidents by 40 per cent this year, using cameras and several other drastic measures.

The city, as well as reducing accidents, aims to cut traffic congestion by 50 per cent in specific areas, and get rid of inner city racing.

"Thanks to law enforcement and increased driver responsibility, the number of accidents dropped by 20 per cent in HCM City last month," said director of the municipal Transport and Public Works, Ha Van Dung.

The National Committee for Traffic Safety reported 74 fewer road accident casualties in September than in August. Nearly 1,200 accidents occurred nation-wide last month, leaving 869 people dead and 963 others injured. — VNS


  • So in Saigon there is also no preference for one way roads
  • What has happened since?
  • Why is this not taking place here?

On pricing petrol

As promised Crossing Cambodia returns to an earlier article originally from the Phnom Penh Post on pricing policy of petrol.

In short while the world price of oil is dropping (25% off the mid-July peak), the price of petrol in Cambodia is not decreasing. The article then goes on to allege possible corruption in the fuel supply industry in Cambodia. It reefers to opposition leader and former minister of Finance, Sam Rainsy, who alleges that importers do not pay taxes to the government but do charge taxes from consumers. Additionally he points out that the amount of petrol being imported has not changed since 1992 / 1993, though the number of vehicles has increased many-fold. Unnamed officials at the Ministry of Commerce confirms that there is an import tax on petrol. They also suspect a discrepancy between what is officially imported and that what is being consumed, possibly due to illegal imports from Thailand / Vietnam. Rainsy even alleges that the army might be in the game.

If anything is clear from this article it is that it is not clear. Petrol in Cambodia is sold through petrol stations. The main players are Tela and Sokimex from Cambodia and foreign controlled operations such as Caltex, Total, Shell, Petronas and PTT. Besides this there are numerous smaller pumps on every street corner (esp. in Phnom Penh) selling from hand-pumps and from the bottle! These smaller pumps are very popular despite questions about the quality of supply andsafety isues. The reason is that they charge roughly 25% less. Now how is this possible? Partly this is because there is a lot of small scale smuggling from Vietnam where subsidies ensure that the price there is a third cheaper than in Cambodia. Vietnam is very motivated to stop this smuggling but says that the Mekong Delta is very difficult to police. Possibly there is some collusion of local officials both sides of the border to assist the smugglers. What's more surprising is that it is even officially known that most of these street stalls sell illegally imported fuel, that the fuel quality is questionable and that all this fuel on the side of the street is not enhancing public safety, despite all this nothing is being done about it. The bad news is that Vietnam wants to get rid of the subsidies!

So what about the official data? Cambodia's Ministry of Commerce simply does not publish import statistics just export data. Both from World Bank and ADB web sites it is impossible to find the current level of fuel importation, again both focussing on exporting. So we have to do with the data supplied in the article. In 1993 100,000 tons of petrol were imported (Rainsy) . In 2005 Cambodia imported '19,780 tons of gasoline and diesel'. So official statistics record a drop of 80% in nearly 12 years! Despite for instance the number of officially registered vehicles increasing the past year by 140% (Crossing Cambodia August 2006 with reference to an article in The Phnom Penh Post). So something is going on. The general public are being scammed by some unscroupolous persons, how come?

From the press: Road Rage Cambodian Style

Today's (November 8, 2006) Cambodia Daily publishes two articles highlighting outrage in traffic. The first article (Reckless Driving Leaves Two Killed and Six Hurt) highlights how a director of a respected Cambodian bank managed to cause 4 accidents in succession while driving his Toyota 4 runner. He knocked two motorcycles and two bicycles, 'intoxicated'. He was now apparently negotiating compensation! With help of the police and the 'respected' bank.

The second article (3 Shot, Injured During Dispute Between Drivers) describes how another intoxicated Toyota driver halted in the middle of a intersection in the middle of the capital for no apparent reason. A following Toyota Camry driver horned his disapproval and was pelted with stones from the first car. Thereupon, two men stepped from the Camry and shot the offenders. Luckily they were just around the corner from a clinic. The police are still investigating the case.

Full story plus comments in DAS site.

Do these examples illustrate anarchy, lawlessness of the Cambodian traffic?

Letters to the editor:

Stan who occasionally publishes on khmer440 trying to gain notierity as a man who prefers walking, now has taken on the cause for public transport in Phnom Penh. Is he getting tired?
From todays (November 8, 2006) Cambodia Daily letter to the editor section, Stan Kahn describes how the bus he was travelling in back from Kampot could not /would not make it pass the Phnom Penh airport. On-going travel required motorcycles as ther are no pubblic buses in Phnom Penh. He laments that this cost him $US 5, whereas in Bangkok the cost would have been 3% of this and in Saigon 6%, if using public transport. As well it would ease traffic. So he concludes, why not start a mini-bus system?

Traffic signs: no parking

A no parking sign on road 63. What does it mean? It means no parking. Officials have added to that the times when it is not allowed which included the time (9.00 in the morning ) in which I took this photo. Just three violators over the 50 m stretch where it is forbidden.

Tuesday, November 07, 2006


After a week long sojourn in Thailand Crossing Cambodia is back. Back to the basic question when starting this blog.What makes Cambodia different?
Coming from the airport one realizes that there are relatively many motorcycles with quite a few persons per motorcycle. Little consensus on where they should be riding on the road, on the right, middle or left? And what are they transporting. They are often carrying heavy loads or 5m long water pipes, or steel rods.
What's more there is total disregard for rules. Crossing Cambodia's taxi driver twice could not resist the temptation to cut a corner by speeding through a service station. And he wasn't the only one!
So was Chiang Mai so different? It was more relaxed, more polite. Still motorcycles drove on the wrong side of the road, but no cutting corners. Not many helmets but early morning (=misty)many motorcycles were driving with the lights on. In Cambodia this is a possible fine.

Letter to the editor

From today's (November 7, 2006) Cambodian Daily a letter to the editor with a persuasive argument to improve unmarked median strips.
However, marking median strips would hardly rank high on the possible measures needed to increase safety of Cambodian traffic. The unfortunate circumstance that a foreigner died in Sihanouk hardly warrants this specific measure. Much more needs to be done.

What's happened the past week

Well what's been happening during the past week? From the Khmer Intelligence site:

2 Beaten, One Shot by VIP Bodyguards. Police has not invistigated the case yet as the victims are afraid to file a complaint

An article about three unfortunate persons who managed to collide with a 'not-to-be-messed-with' Mercedes driver. Justice coming?

Cambodia To Build Rail Link With Malaysian Tracks Soon

Second hand rails not deemed good enough for Malaysia gifted to Cambodia to a stretch where the rails have disappeared. Will this result in an improvement?

Record-high fuel prices defy oil's drop

A story that Crossing Cambodia will follow up in the coming week(s?). Basically prices can go up but not down.

M'sian firm Muhibbah commercial involvement in Cambodia

An in depth story into a Malaysian company that has teamed up with a French company to create a monopoly on airport services in Cambodia.

Ferry Director, Accused of Fraud, Denies Charges

And then an older story about a ferry director accused of using the services budget to line his / her own pocket.

Wednesday, October 25, 2006

Letters to the editor: City officials should obey traffic laws (as opposed to ...)

Today's (October 25, 2006) 'Letter to the editor' in the Cambodian Daily:

City officials should obey traffic laws

I'm so tired of having to risk my life walking on crowded city streets because I am unable to walk on blocked-up sidewalks. I have nearly been run over more than twice this month.
Public disorder is under the jurisdiction of the municipality. But earlier this month, I was left speechless when I saw a Phnom Penh vice-govenor and a karaoke star-turned-district official park their flashy Toyota Land Cruisers right accross the pavement on a busy street near my apartment.
Their parking behavior was not only a classic example of what not to follow, it is also a slap in the face to godd drivers and citizens alike.
Well-respected leaders lead by example. Obey the law first and the general public will follow suit.

Vuth Chansarei Phuon, Phnom Penh

Traffic signs: no u-turns

What's not allowed? No u-turns! So why in the 5 minutes while Crossing Cambodia is observing this crossroad was ther only 1 car making a u-turn? Have the Cambodians all of a sudden become law-abiding citizens? The no u-turn sign blocks just a small 150m stretch of road. And as you can see on the photo, motorcyclists prefer the shortest way, which means a preference for driving down the wrong side of the road rather than taking a u-turn.
What Crossing Cambodia did observe was an increase in the number of motorcyslists with mirrors, some very weird, clearly bought recently but meant for cars. But still not even 1%.

Tuesday, October 24, 2006

Getting a head start: quiet revolution?

Phnom Penh authorities are getting a head start on the traffic law by issuing a decree whereby as of November 2006 motorists (=drivers of motorcycles):
  • 'must use lights and wing mirrors'.
  • 'have until the end of the month to comply of face unspecified means of "correction".
This according to a cited article of dpa on the KI site, the DaS site also delves into this decree. As many motorists currently ride without lighting and have no mirrors at all, this suggests a quiet revolution. Something similar (all motorists needing to posess mirrors) was introduced in the Lao PDR, two years ago. As the Lao are more law abiding citizens and the authorities more law enforcing enclined, this resulted in an acute shortage of mirrors, resulting in higher prices and motorists installing not so wide car-mirrors which somehow met the requirement but could not be used. No destinct difference occured in the driving style ...
Anyway the same seems to be happening in Phnom Penh, prices for mirrors have doubled,
'though there was little sign that the decree was yet being taken seriously as almost no mirrors were in evidence on the motorbikes weaving through Phnom Penh's chaotic traffic'.

Why are there no mirrors installed on motorcycles? In Laos this was due to a forward looking mentality and it was believed that mirrors could reveal ghosts. Feng shui? Here in Cambodia:
'mirrors are often seen as something that real men don't use. "Most drivers with mirrors are women. Women use them to touch up make-up," one skeptical officer, whose own private bike does not sport mirrors, said'.

The Details are Sketchy site concludes:
'Clearly, something should be done to get a handle on Phnom Penh’s anarchic traffic. But requiring wing mirrors and indicator lights seems about as likely to work as, say, requiring drivers to have a working speedometer. Which is to say, not one bit. Because the real problem is not a lack of wing mirrors — or indicator lights, for that matter — it’s that people have nothing but contempt for traffic laws and the police officers that occasionally try to enforce them'.

Well said. From a population which even disregards traffic lights backed up with traffic police directed instructions not much can be expected. How about focussing on enforcing current regulations?

Monday, October 23, 2006

Hearsay: on driving licenses

Phnom Penh Post (October 20-November 2) keep up the in-depth reports on traffic related issues.

'License to kill: trafficking in the transport ministry'
reveals the 'ease' of obtaining adriving license. Leng Thum Yuthea, director general of transport at the Ministry of Public Works and Transport last year promised that the then newly acquired technology

'would reduce the opportunity for paying off officials for a license'.
More than a year later the promise seems to be broken. At least the report says it simply costs more. Bribes have risen

'from US $ 20 to US $ 80 for passing the computer and driving tests on road rules'.
Even if you pass the exams, but do not pay the bribe, you still do not get the license. Then again if you do not know how to drive , but pay, you get a license. To test this the Post went to the Department's offices and asked a motodop driver hanging around (=a dealer?). He said he could arrange everything for US $ 150 (if you can't drive), US $ 110 if you could. Apparently 'his cut' was just US $ 5, the rest mark-up? The 'official' response of the deputy director of the Land Transport Department:

'could not comment about corruption... because it was outside his jurisdiction (?), he did not dare to know....'
The article also mentions the August statistics: 78 dead.

So where does that leave us?

Friday, October 20, 2006

Traffic signs: Give way

Give way or not? This sign board indicates on the enormous Independence monument roundabout that all traffic approaching the roundabout should give way to the traffic on the roundabaout. Underneath is written in Khmer 'Give right(?) to everybody'. Internationally the correct interpretation is :
'In road transport, a yield (United States) and or give way (United Kingdom and many Commonwealth countries) indicates that a of a must slow down and prepare to stop if necessary (usually while merging into traffic on another) but does not need to stop if there is no reason to'.(Wikipedia)

So what happens in a short 5 minute burst at 11.30 on a clear and sunny Friday morning?

Twenty-three cars and 8 motorcycles were forced to stop (!) due to approaching traffic. Complete opposite of what is allowed. Probably because it was not busy maybe, as this encourages traffic approaching the roundabout to push through while the 'rounding' traffic is slower. In one incident motorcycles actually touched! So again the traffic signs are not used for what they are meant.Time for a re-education camp?

Updating Crossing Cambodia's readers

Take a look at this picture above. The authorities have deemed it wise to fill the potholes in street 63 but, as it is a busy street, they need to cordon part of the street off. For this thay use a thin strip of tape with a few sticks. The tape is so thin you do not even see it on the photo. Did it help? Not really. Half an hour later this solution was not used as a number of the sticks had been broken. And has the street improved? Wait and see.

In the recent weeks not so may postings from Crossing Cambodia. Why not? Well, generating own content costs time and from the press there is little revealing insights: this week five seems to be the unlucky number, three separate accidents on 3 separate days have resulted in 5 dead in each accident. Everything (speeding, drugs, alcohol, ignorance)/one got the blame. One incident was a cement truck backing onto a national highway which resulted in two speeding vehicles losing control. Another was a nighttime accident when a vehicle without lighting crashes into another vehicle without lighting on an unlit road. Hmmm.

Should Crossing Cambodia keep you posted?

Anyway, in the coming weeks the layout will be improved hopefully.

Traffic signs: Stop!

Well, what distinguishes anarchy from chaos from (some form of) regulated order? Traffic laws, enforcing these and general adherence to a set of rules. So what is easier than a stop sign? What does it mean?

A stop sign is a traffic sign, usually erected at road junctions, that instructs drivers to make a brief and temporary, but complete, stop upon reaching it, and then to proceed only if the way ahead is clear.
That's what Wikipedia defines of the internationally recognised stop sign.

So in what way does Cambodia differ? Besids the appearance of Khmer on the signboard there does seem to be a different local interpretation in this. A 5 minute survey this morning at 8.45 on the cornor of street 310 and street 63 revealed that just 11.5% (6 of 52) of the motorcyclists and 23.8% (5 of 21) really stopped.

To tell the truth, none of these vehicles voluntarily stopped but were forced to stop due to the the heavy amount of traffic crossing street 63 (whom have right of way) or because the vehicle of front of them had stopped. Some vehicles (2) even managed to halt the crossing traffic on street 63 by simply horning and disregarding their (street 63 users) right of way.

So little compliance to this traffic sign.

Friday, October 13, 2006

Thursday, October 05, 2006

On toll roads

With the lack of infrastructure in Cambodia it is no wonder that the government has come to see toll roads as having the potential of providing rapidly built roads with little or no costs on the government side. On national scale the main highway between the capital and the port city of Sihanoukville is run by a toll company. The company provides road maintenance in return for the permission to charge the users for toll at the start and finish of the road. Considering the condition of this road, everyone seems quite satisfied with this agreement; it certainly is the best highway in the country.
With this success in mind, cash-strapped local governments have started more toll road initiatives. A good example is the International School street here in Phnom Penh. This road provides a short cut to the main highways south and the airport. More importantly it leaves the user the possibility of avoiding the traffic snarl where a ring road meets the main access road out of the city and two of the most important boulevards in the city: chaos and anarchy. However, the toll road is built on the premise that the builder will invest all money he currently receives for providing the link in the upgrade. Well, at least that’s what Crossing Cambodia concludes. It has a poor road surface and until recently there were potholes. For this, cars are charged roughly 0,25 $US, not much, but usually when you pay for something (in this case a road) you expect to receive something, at the very least you could hope to have just as good a road as government road.
Today’s Cambodian Daily (5 October 2006) reports extensively on a new toll road in the provincial capital of Takeo. The government does not have the money to provide an access road to a national highway and asks a businessperson to invest. This person invests 600,000 $US in a 4km road and receives a 30 year concession to ask the public for funds. The new road runs parallel to an older road, which apparently is more or less crowded. The provincial governor mentions that the road was constructed ‘to reduce traffic jams and road accidents’ elsewhere. Well that all sounds swell. Only question Crossing Cambodia has is how is the owner going to get his money back? Without inflation he needs to make 20,000 $US / year or 54 $ /day. Let’s for this argument’s sake say that the constructer needs $100 per day to retrieve his initial investment. Will he succeed? Apparently the constructor is getting nervous, because he has just raised the tariff from 0,25 $US for taxi’s to 0,83 $US. This coincided with the provincial government forcing taxi-drivers to use the new road (citing the above). So now the toll road is built for public use but forcibly asking drivers to pay. In such circumstances one wonders how the local situation has improved? Would a public road not have been the best solution and getting the funds from road taxes?
A short side street on this subject was a proposal launched in the beginning of the year which entailed exempting all parliamentarians from paying toll on the toll roads. The reason given was that they are very busy and do not have the time to wait in line and probably wait for the cashier to find change for the hundred dollar bill.

A section of a toll road

Wednesday, October 04, 2006

Traffic law will crack down on ....


Thursday, September 28, 2006

Safety during holidays

Traffic accidents kill 23, hurt 117 during festival

That's the title of a short article in today's (Thursday, September 28 2006) Cambodian Daily. This is the tally of 3 days. Last year's tally (in deaths) was just 8. A now cleary presumptious article in the same daily last week metioned that the death tally would be probably be lower and the police started slapping themselves on the back. Too soon.

Does the nearly, triple as high rate, then imply that the police are not doing their work? Or does it mean that in spite of the increased effort by traffic authorities the problems are simply too big/complex. Last week the police mentioned a crack down on overloaded vehicles. Today's article adds to this:

  • drivers had no mutual understanding

  • rich people driving luxury vehicles forced other cars off the road

  • drivers drove fast

  • no respect of traffic rules (which don't even exist).

What are the prospects for next year?

Tuesday, September 26, 2006

Safety issues

A number of articles in the Cambodian Daily over the past few days have focused on safety. In today’s (September 25, 2006) Letter to the Editor, a reader complains about ferry safety: he points out that ferries lack safety devices such as lifejackets and/or life buoys. How important this is, was illustrated by an incident off the coast last week when a local boat sank and seven people drowned despite being just 100m off-land.

Other modes of public transport are often not in better shape. Buses do not tend to be safety first vehicles; using Cambodian roads are dangerous enough without emphasizing Cambodian roads fair share of inexperienced and carefree drivers combined with the fact that many vehicles (incl. buses) have the steering wheel on the wrong side and lack maintenance and the poor condition of the roads themselves. In a recent blog posting (24 September 2006) the author describes how the bus he was traveling broke its axle just a minute after leaving. Crossing Cambodia has also reported other accidents involving buses.

The next step down in the public transport are minivans which, oddly enough, provide long haul travel. They are often over packed (see photo’s elsewhere):passengers up front and on top; freight in the back or on top. Last week Thursday’s Cambodian Daily (21 September 2006) reported an incident in one of the western provinces where one passenger died and various injured when their mini van hit an overhead pole. They had been ‘seated’ on top of the van.

For local transport there is the ‘remorque’ : a motorcycle with a big trailer behind. Remorque is French for to tow. This type of vehicle must be very Cambodian, there is definitely no Wiki page available on this. What’s more, if the draft version of the traffic law is accepted the remorque will probably cease to exist. The towed trailer is a bit deep and loose planks are laid from side to side which are meant as the seats. Often these are over loaded, 20-30 passengers is no problem. A major safety issue is that the trailer can easily cause the motorcycle front wheel to make a wheelie and thus steeringless. Luckything is that these motorcycles can’t drive fast.

Further down the list of public travel options are long/short haul taxi’s which are packed toi the brim (4 peopleon the two front seats). Last week I saw one with two persons in baggage boot. The boot lid was up and each sat on a side of the car holding the lid.

What they have in common is that they are all highly dangerous vehicles.

But having your own vehicle is not always a guanrantee for safety. In the police blotter from the Phnom Penh Post (Sept 21- October 5), 4 of the 17 articles mention motocycles being stolen at gun-point/knife point! Three of the four cases the victim was shot or stabbed, the other case one of the robbers was shot by a ‘anonymous’ who then stole the robbers’ motorcycle!

Today’s blog seems to be loosing the point. The Cambodian Daily again of 25 September 2006 reports less accidents during the past Pchum Ben holidays. Six dead. The article goes on then that the decrease is due to police vigilance: ‘we do not allow taxis to be overloaded’ at least in Kampong Cham. Crossing Cambodia’s observation seemed quite contradictory to that statement, but the experience related to different provinces. But is safety a real issue?

Crossing Cambodia has been trying to is to put what’s happening on Cambodian roads into perspective. In May 2006 a meeting was held in Bangkok, hosted by the UNESCAP(United Nations Economic and Social Commission for Asia and the Pacific) Secretariat. A ‘Status of Road Safety in Asia was presented. One highlight of the report was the actual lack of details/data. Apparently in most Asian countries data on safety issues are deemed not important. In spite of this I have tried to give an overview of the Cambodian situation vis-à-vis its (selected) neighbors. In the overview Crossing Cambodia shows that Cambodia has relatively fewer vehicles but that the fatality rate is high and its effect to the economy is much higher than those of other countries, actually in that last comparison, Cambodia is the most affected country in Asia! Some doubt exist over the data though: in some countries the number of fatalities are higher than those injured!

Safety issues:


Vehicles per
1000 inhabitants

% 2/3 wheelers
(of total)


Fatalities per
10,000 vehicles


Estimated loss to GDP















































But clearly the scope for improvement is needed, most incidents occurring needn’t. Even with new laws the drop may not occur. Firstly there is the case that police enforcement is unsure, secondly the number of vehicles being registered is growing very fast so even new law and enforcement would only result in a smaller growth of unsafetiness.

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