Crossing Cambodia

Wednesday, August 30, 2006

Accidents happening

When Crossing Cambodia started this blog, it looked like a good idea to include the few accidents that were reported in the local press. The local press however hardly report on normal incidents and the not normal accidents are adding up. Just two weeks ago a report on a Mitsubishi Pajero crashing near the American embassy, today a report about a Lexus crashing just around the corner from the embassy. Funny thing is that has evolved from the accident from two weeks back, the driver had never driven before or at leat that is implied on this forum entry. Anyway without further ado, here is today's accient (Cambodian Daily August 30, 2006):

General's Son Crashes SUV into Wat Phnom Posts

Three of the concrete posts surrounding Wat Phnom were damaged when a luxury Lexus SUV carrying the son of RCAF (CC: Cambodian Army) General Kao Try spun out of control and smashed into a protective barrier and a tree at the city's historic pagoda, police said Tuesday
Police said the vehicle was traveling at high speed when it turned right off Norodom Boulevard and crashed into Wat Phnom Saturday evening, said Mao Sony, deputy municipal traffic police chief.
Mao Sony said Kao Try's son was not injured but police reported that he acted aggessively when they arrived at the scene.
"I heard on the [police] radio that he was using derogatory words against police and a journalist,' Mao Sony said.
Pich Socheata, deputy govenor of Daun Penh district, said Kao Try has promised to pay for repairs. Pich Socheata said she was not impressed with the behaviour of the general's son, who she alleged grabbed a journalist by the hair after the crash. She also said that she was offended by the 'harsh words' used by both Kao Try, who arrived at the scene, and his son.
'I walked away because I could not bear the words,' she added.
Kao Try denied that his son was driving the car or that the Lexus had been racing. He also denied that his son manhandled a journalist or that strong words were directed at Pich Socheata and the police.
"My son did not grab anyone by the hair,' Kao Try said, adding that poor lighting around Wat Phnom contributed to the crash.
On Monday night another vehicle crashed at the same spot at Wat Phnom, though no one was hurt, Mao Sony said.

Should I comment? Ok then:
  • Crash 1 happens Saturday evening, makes the Daily on Wednesday, crash 2 happens on Monday night , makes the daily on Wednesday. Why did the police inform the media only on Tuesday? Cover up? Possibly the culprits must have overstepped a (unseen) line otherwise it would probably never been heard of.
  • The intersection Norodom with the roundabout around the Wat is spacious. Norodom is spacious, so not so hard to think of speeding as a possible cause. Poor lighting? That's a fact of life in Phnom Penh.
  • Everybody seems to have heard 'harsh words', why deny this? Maybe Mel Gibson can be regarded as a model.
  • Who was driving the car?
  • When will the driver be charged? Sorry, it has probably been dealt with. The general has promised to pay for the repairs to the Wat. How abou a fine?

Tuesday, August 29, 2006

From the press: weekly train terrorizes nation

From todays (August 29, 2006) Cambodia Daily:

Man Sleeping on Tracks Killed by Train: Police

A man was killed by a train in Banteay Meanchey province Saturday night, police said Monday. Hing Han, a traffic police officer in Mongkol Borei district, said the unidentified man in his late 30s was sleeping on the tracks when a Battambang bound train ran over him, severing his left arm. Hing Han said that the man had been seen in Banteay Neang commune several days prior to his death, though villagers in the commune did not recognize him. (Van Roeun)

Kite season

From the press: Cambodian bridges are falling down

From the Cambodian Daily of Saturday and Sunday August 26-27, 2006. Are Cambodian roads better than the national railway?

Large Section of Route 5 Bridge Fell Into River

National Route 5 near Sisophon Town in Banteay Meanchey province was closed for the second time in a week on Thursday night to allow additional repairs to a French colonial era bridge spanning the Tuk Thla River, officials said. More than 500 cars and trucks were backed-up on National Route 5 on Tuesday and Wednesday after a large section of the decades-old bridge fell into the river and stopped traffic, said Saing Savath, director of the province's public works and transport department, on Thursday. 'We need to repair it again on Thursday night because we feel that it will be damaged. We have to make it stronger and firm to make sure it will not be damaged again,' Saing Savath said. The bridge, which will be replaced by a new construction later this year, was damaged during the civil warof the 1980s and 1990s, he added. Chhoeung Sokhom, Banteay Meanchey provincial ploice chief blamed the damage to the bridge on overloaded trucks and complained that reckless drivers were trying to cross the unsafe bridge. 'Some drivers don't listen to the traffic police instructions,' he said. (Thet Sambath)

Monday, August 28, 2006

Keep an eye on the road, traffic police

In today's (August 28, 2006) Cambodian Daily, a letter to the editor from someone who, like Crossing Cambodia, has problems with the priorities of the (traffic) police:

Traffic in Phnom Penh is getting worse, but if the traffic police were working properly the situation would improve.
Every day I drive from Tuol Kok district to Independence Monument and see people driving dangerously, I do not understandwhy the traffic police don't care about this. Instead, they look for loaded trucks,make trouble for their drivers and beg for money.
I also wonder what time the traffic police start work. Every day at about 7.45 am there is chaos at the intersection of Norodom Boulevard and Street 214. I do not see our traffic police there.
Are the traffic police busy working for individual interests? I always see them looking after the traffic near a restaurant on Kampuchea Krom Boulevard, which is popular among the rich. They are always waiting to direct the traffic for those wealthy people.
I sincerely hope that the Phnom Penh traffic police chief will pay more attention to these issues.

Leng Sokong,
Phnom Penh


Coming up in September, a unique chance to buy a national rail system. From the Cambodian Daily (August 26-27, 2006):

Cambodia’s dilapidated railway service, which currently runs a total of one passenger train per week between Phnom Penh and Battambang, is slated to be privatized by the middle of next year, Royal Railway Director Sokhom Pheakavanmony said Friday. On Monday, the government and Asian Development Bank are scheduled to finalize a $67 million loan to renovate the railroad, he said. The loan will be used to complete the so-called missing link from Sisophon town to Poipet in Banteay Meanchey province. Eventually the track will link to the Thai rail system, but a completion date has not been set yet, Sokhom Pheakavanmony said. In the meantime, he said, the government will put the train system up for privatization. ‘The official announcement for public bidding is in September and the submission of a list of companies to the ADB in November,’ he added. French Transport Minister Dominique Perben, set to arrive in Phnom Penh on Friday evening, will also discuss possible French aid for the railway with Minister of Public Works Sun VChanthol, officials said. (Kay Kimsong)


  • In the region there are only state run railroads, why the insistence on privatizing?
  • Who could be possible interested in a run down rail system with the capacity of 1 train per week?
  • From an earlier posting:
    "It's time to repair the railways. If not, the train system will die - you can see trains derailing every week" said Yin Bunna, director of the railway rehabilitation project for the Ministry of Public Works and Transport (MPWT).
    If there is only one train per week, how can there be trains derailing every week?
  • Apparently the $67 million dollars will also be used for overhauling the line so as to enable (weekly?) passenger services with speeds of up to 50 (!) km/hour.
  • Why this emphasis on rail? In surrounding countries rail services are, with the exception of urban Malaysia, insufficient to meet consumer demands, on most lines in Thailand there is only a daily service. Just a month ago Crossing Cambodia had the privilege of taking an overnight train from Hat Yai Thailand to Kuala Lumpur, mostly empty and extremely noisy. How can one expect to make such an experience into a profit? How can profit making by rail contribute to meeting the nation’s expectations?

Friday, August 25, 2006

Malaysia, truly Asia?

While in monsoonal sojourn in Malaysia's capital, Crossing Cambodia came across an advertisement in the New Strait Times. A full page ad with the caption:
"Crossing at the wrong place is suicide.
Use Proper Crossings.
You Can Make A Difference."

Is this really one of Cambodia's nearest neighbours? Is Malaysia really in Asia?

Yes, yes. The ad refers to a website panducermat which is run by the local Ministry of Transport apparently. We all know that governments tend to be a bit slow, so in the odd case where they do have a website it's mostly outdated and irrelevant. Not with this site.
They have an up to date hall of shame in which anyone can send in there snaps of 'road-bullies' and/or parking offenders or other offenders (red light dodgers). The website admin mention 'Rest assured that the authorities are looking into this and may act on cases reported'.
Discussions concern 'corruption and accidents', 'moth balls in diesel', '60% fatalaties are the govt doing enuf for bike safety? ('If memory serves me well, I think in Moral class, they teach you how to ride your bicycle. (Hooray, finally found a use for moral classes'))', 'rubbernecking ( After looking this thread up Crossing Cambodia still has no clue what is meant. 'to look about or survey with unsophisticated wonderment or curiosity.), 'Hand phone and smoking while driving', 'Malaysian police fines - can get discount ar?' (thread started by finethem!), 'big muffler', 'Yellow Box', 'Malaysian Road: A Lawless State?!?!', all highly readible. Now why haven't such initiatives every crossed the Gulf of Thailand? Where are the law abiding citizens of Cambodia?

Accident report

From the Cambodian Daily (Thursday, August 24, 2006):

1 Killed, 9 Injured When Speeding Truck Flips

A woman was killed and nine people were injured Monday afternoon in Battambang province's Mong Russei district when a speeding pickup truck overturned on National Route 5, police said Wednesday. According to district deputy police chief Kith Heng, the Izusu pickup flipped and rolled after its right tire was punctured. A 37-year-old woman who was identified only as Mab was hurled out of the vehicle and killed when the pickup rolled over her, crushing her chest, he said. The injured passengers are being treated at hospitals in Battambang town and Mong Russei district, Kith Heng said. The driver of the vehicle was not hurt in the accident. (Van Roeun)

Wednesday, August 23, 2006


An empty cyclo tempting fate during current monsoonal downpours. Source: Beth

The non-existence of public traffic in Phnom Penh has resulted in the availability of other alternatives. From the French colonial days cyclo’s have existed to take passengers in a relaxing and slightly decadent method. The Cambodian cyclo is a cycle rickshaw, i.e. a 3 wheel vehicle meant to carry passengers. The Indochina version carries the passengers upfront between the front wheels with the cycle driver/rider behind and above has passengers. The passenger seat is very comfortable but only 1 person fits, though if everybody sits on each others lap, considerable more passengers can be taken.

Crossing Cambodia did some research, but there’s hardly any worthy information available on this vehicle. That’s with the exception of the Cyclo Centre Phnom Penh website. The centre provides cyclo drivers with livelihood support through various means, such as health provision/awareness, the possibility to gain working skills and business/finance skills. The site provides excellent information that draws attention to the dire situation of most cyclo drivers: for instance 38% of the drivers live and sleep on the street. Eighty percent of the cyclo drivers (the centre has registered more than 1200) rent their cyclo’s @ 0.5$US/day. Average income is 1.8$US/day! In the last year, 2 cyclo drivers died in accident related incidents and 12 drivers needed medical attention after accidents.

Cyclo drivers are not found as regular as moto’s in Phnom Penh, though with a little effort they are to be localised. They are used on shorter routes, both by tourists and/or locals, though seldom will you catch any local youth/young adults on a cyclo. Sometimes they are used for transport of larger articles. As can be seen by the low income, the cyclo is relatively cheap, though in the case of tourists this may be opposite. Then again, cyclo’s waiting outside hotels are quite good in English and can be a good guide to Phnom Penh, something what can’t be said for a random moto driver waiting outside the same hotel.

Crossing Cambodia also took some trouble trying to find some web info on a coffee table book by Rob Joiner, called ‘King of the roads’. Cambodian Crossing saw a copy not so long ago at Monument books with beautiful photo’s of cyclo’s and their drivers.

Wednesday, August 16, 2006

On track?

A follow up to the recent article on Cambodia's rail network from the Phnom Penh Post (Phnom Penh Post, Issue 15 / 16, August 11 - 24, 2006. Lot's of work to do, maybe it's cheaper to roll out a total new system?
Decrepit railways' rehabilitation on track

By Cheang Sokha

The dilapidated railways network connecting Phnom Penh to Sisophon and Sihanoukville will be repaired in early 2007, a senior railway official has told the Post.

Sokhom Pheakavanmony, general director of Cambodian Railways, said that the two rail lines will begin to be rehabilitated next year and the Asian Development Bank (ADB) will provide loans for the project - including the long-destroyed 48 km from Sisophon to Poipet town at the Thai border.

"It's time to repair the railways. If not, the train system will die - you can see trains derailing every week" said Yin Bunna, director of the railway rehabilitation project for the Ministry of Public Works and Transport (MPWT). "If we receive money to repair on time, we can save the life of the Cambodian railway."

Bunna said the renovation may take roughly three years because the tracks are in serious disrepair.

The project, devised by a joint working group of Cambodian and ADB specialists, will cost approximately $67 million, including over $10 million for the 48 km from Sisophon to Poipet.

Peter Broch, ADB transport project economist in Manila, said the ADB has not approved a loan yet, but the proposed project will be presented for approval by the ADB's board in November. If approved, the loan will be concessionaire, financed by ADB's Asian Development Fund.

"We are currently preparing the feasibility study for the railway project," Broch said, "We expect to finish rehabilitation of the railway by the end of 2009, and we will ensure that the railway track is safe."

Broch said the ADB will provide a $42 million loan for the repair of the railway. However, many people have settled on the railway's land around Poipet and need to be relocated to enable reconstruction of the railway connection to Thailand.

"With this amount of money the train speed will run up to 50 km per hour," Bunna said.

The Secretary of State for the MPWT, Uk Chan, said the government will contribute 10 percent of the overall budget for the railway project.

"Most of the tracks, wooden supports and screws need to be changed," Chan said, "About 60 percent of all construction equipment is imported from Thailand. So, if we can transport this freight by train, it will save the roads from the damage of overloaded trucks."

Chan said 70 percent of Cambodian railway lines will need to be replaced. Most of the wooden supports, or sleepers, are at least 80 years old and have never been maintained or replaced.

On July 25, a train from Sihanoukville on the southern line derailed in Kampot province, spilling tons of fuel belonging to tycoon Sok Kong of Sokimex. A day later, a train from Sisophon on the northern line also derailed and overturned two freight cars of cement. No one was injured in the accidents, authorities reported.

The 385 km railroad from Sisophon, the provincial capital of Banteay Meanchey, to Phnom Penh was built between 1929 and 1941, and the 264km from Phnom Penh to Sihanoukville between 1960 and 1969.

Bunna said many wooden sleepers are broken and many metal spikes have been stolen.

Suy San, general inspector at MPWT, said the Malaysian government has donated metal ties for the 48 km railroad from Sisophon to Poipet, which was destroyed during the Khmer Rouge time.

"We have to fix our railroad because it runs very slowly, only 17 km per hour," said San. "Travelers are fearful of traveling by train because it is slow and they think it's not secure. The train transports only private goods at the moment."

The government is also seeking $480 million for building part of a new ASEAN railroad from Kunming, China, to Loc Ninh, Vietnam. Cambodia's 255 km missing link would be from Bak Deung in Kampong Chhnang province through Phnom Penh to Snuol in Kampong Cham province and from there to Loc Ninh.

"The government has asked China for funding for the railroad and they promised to support the project," Pheakavanmony said, "Now we are waiting for the Cambodian and Vietnam partners to demarcate the border."

Accidents happen

Normally, traffic accidents hardly merit mention in the local press, unless something spectacular happens. See this story (originally from Cambodian Daily) via a link to KI Media. An accident with lots of ingredients. Unfortunately, the more racey bits are highlighted (in red (is this good or bad?)). Many questions are raised. No answers anyway. Crossing Cambodia's main querie is: was the driver charged with speeding? The police mention that this was the cause of the accident.

Traffic law

Here's a link to a story and some forum comments concerning Cambodia's new (?) traffic law
Meanwhile what are Cambodia's neighbours doing? Law enforcement and traffic safety have high priority in Lao PDR:

Road accidents still get lot of concerns in Vientiane

Laos News Agency (KPL)

Although there was no death in riding accidents in Vientiane Capital since 31 July to 6 of this month, a lot of vehicle users paid less attention to strict implementing of traffic rules, and thus caused the 42 accidents cost 56,4 million kip, according to report of Vientiane Traffic Control Station.

Accidents occurred in last week caused 77 vehicles damaged, and 90 people injured.

The First Lieutenant Kingkham Phommahasay said that the accidents had been mostly caused by drink driving, and traffic rule violence. In the time of one week there were 29 vehicle users had involved in accidents due to drink driving and 54 people including 18 women due to traffic rule violence, as 52 people had been found that they brought no driving license while using their vehicles. The accidents had also been caused by over--speed- limit driving.

District of Sykhottabong had a large number of accidents, having 15 accidents, followed by Sysattanak 11 accidents, Chanthaboury 9 accidents, Saysetha 5 accidents, and Saythany 2 accidents. While the remain had been found that there were very small number of accidents.

Official said that the victims including 45 workers, 28 students and 16 public servants.

First Lieutenant added that the project of reduction road accidents, which has been implemented since 26 June and will be ended on 26th of upcoming September, is very successfully carried out. Doing project’s activities has reduce a number of accidents.

“The project is now being implemented actively in order to reduce a number of accidents as much as it can ”. Said the Leuftenant.

He also required the vehicle users to pay more attention to careful driving in line with the traffic rule-, and driving when having a good heath in both mind and body. In addition, the parents should warn their children to do such good behaviors.

Friday, August 11, 2006

Accidents happen

One of the main problems with road 51 is passing the UN offices. The sidewalks are packed wuth Landcruisers, additional cars are parked on the street, often double parked, but as we all know the UN is for us all, so no need tolead by example. Anyway, this morning an unfortunate motorcycle rider was bumped from behind by a pick-up trying to negotiate this section. At least nobody was wounded no need to report this in the RTAVIS.

Monsoonal toll

Come monsoon, Cambodian roads tend to get flooded. According to pundits flooding is increasing and will continue unabatted until the government steps in. Hmmm.
But one crossroads will hopefully be less flooded in future. No blocked drain entrance. A few weeks ago a spontaneous hole opened up, rougly a meter deep, offering unblocked access to the sewage system underneath. This just behind Goldiana Hotel. Luckily action has been taken, a branch has been put in the hole thereby road users are warned!


Has Crossing Cambodia been complaining too much about the men in blue esp. lacking initiative. Well, today the good news. According to a report from Cambodian Daily (here is a link to a summary of the article) police have intervened in a dispute between a monk and local dog meat restaurants which apparently double as karaoke bars and other more profitable business. The monk complained to the authorities in November (let's hope that was last year, the Daily does not specify which November) but police took action last Sunday.
And this morning I witnessed a police motorbike persuing and pulling over an unfortunate Tico driver. A short discussion between police and driver ensured and one of the men in blue made a short inspection tour of the car. And even more surprising, whatever offence was commited, the driver was let off and was allowed to continue! The police did all this effort and did not even get anything out of it!

Thursday, August 10, 2006

Concerning crossing PP with a moto

Again a good blog from Khmer 440. For the occasional visitor this should their first lesson in traversing Cambodia's capitol. The text:

Just an English Teacher: Finding a Reliable ‘Moto-Dop’ and Getting Your Resume Out There

By Tvon:
Today’s the day!
Assuming you have prepared, copied and crammed that huge pile of job-search-documents into your worn-out back-pack you are now ready to start pounding the pavement, pressing the flesh and meeting your potential new employers. You’ve promised to buy yourself a real English teacher brief case when you get your first pay packet.
Your one remaining task this morning is to find yourself a reliable ‘moto-dop.’

Now, I must admit that I have not exactly mastered the Khmer language and I’m afraid I can’t tell you what a ‘moto-dop’ is. Although I have spent a number of years winging it, through uncountable hours of English classes, in Asia’s word factories and I must further confess that I’m completely at a loss as to how the word ‘reliable’ fits into any sentence where we find the term ‘moto-dop.’
There is no public transport system within the city of Phnom Penh, so the best way of getting around town is to find yourself one of those guys wearing a baseball cap and driving a motorcycle.
They’ll probably be waving to you, or pointing - for some unknown reason - to the sky and the more eloquent will be repeatedly yelling unintelligible utterances at you. They like to call you ‘friend’ or ‘brother.’
You’ll easily spot these guys. They all drive motorcycles that are customised with large flat rectangular-shaped passenger seats that look like they were designed to carry piled-up cases of beer. Or fat barang arses.

‘Moto-dops’ are everywhere. Especially, pulling over and stopping right in front of you, just when you’re stepping onto the street-side, trying to get across to the other side.
But probably the easiest way to find your most reliable day’s transport companion is to allow the first ten to twenty centimetres of your shadow to appear just outside your guest house’s front entrance.
Like a group of Hip-Hopsters in a Cambodian Boys’ Band video they’ll start slinking towards you. They’re all yelling their greetings and listing the tourist highlights – “Killing Fields, Shooting Range, Toul Sleng, Psar Thmei go market” and so on. But the guy you want is the one who has the linguistic skills to actually enquire, “Hey you! Where you go?”
This is the guy you can talk to. Go straight to him. His name is most likely Jack, Blacky or Rambo. The experienced and reliable ‘moto-dops’ don’t use their Khmer names and they are capable of responding agreeably to any question you have with reassuring affirmatives.
”I want to apply for a job at some English Schools.” you tell him. Handing him the yellow pages you’ve copied, he takes the pages from you and studies them with a furrow of intense concentration across his brow.
“Yes. I take you.” and promptly suggests, “Killing Fields?”
How come you didn’t notice he was holding those yellow-pages up-side-down?
Never-mind. He’s already given you his business card with a mobile phone number and an email address. You have a good feeling about this guy.
So you show him the city map that you’ve taken from the Bygone Beatnik centre-fold.
He stares blankly as he rotates this page, holding it like you have just handed him 6 kilos of afterbirth from freshly born platypus twins. But he’s still nodding and agreeing with every word you have to say about schools’ locations and all the street numbers you list. Your confidence in this guy is sky-rocketing – ‘He’s probably taken every possible teaching applicant to these places every day for years.’ you feel. (It’ll take at least three more days before you learn that he just moved from Kampong Speu to Phnom Penh two weeks ago.)
In an impressive series of rapid-fire gestures he wipes off your seat and slaps it, enthusiastically inviting you to get seated and started. Already he’s given the bike two thrashing – but unsuccessful - kick-starts. You are impressed!
However, your confidence starts to diminish as his third kick-start attempt sputters to silence and he’s suggesting, “Then we go Shooting Range. OK? M-16. Shoot rocket through buffalo! Very good.”
Now he’s walking his moto up the street – hands on handle-bars - and you have no choice but to follow as you push from the back. He’s already got your back-pack crammed into his front storage space. But it’s just a quick one and a half blocks where you stop at a roadside stall selling bottles of lime-green liquid that the lady starts pouring it into his gas tank. Rambo hands over a thousand riel. She pockets it. Then he holds out his hand telling you, “Need petrol, two-dollar.” which you hand over and the cash quickly finds its way to his shirt pocket.
It occurs to you as you are now sputtering away on his grumbling moto that you never did discuss his fees. Never mind. You’re now mobile and on your way to your first job interview. You don’t know where you’re going – you’re new in town. Rambo’s new in town too but he knows where he’s going. Unfortunately he has no idea of where you’re going. He’s moving in and out of the chaotic traffic with confidence, so he must be on his way to the closest school.
You’re watching everything. Silently you leave the driving to Rambo. Silently he leaves you to your uncertainty. But after the first half hour you’re feeling a bit uneasy. You should have found at least one of the places that you’d clearly explained to him.
Your street-side focus intensifies. You’re pretty sure there’s got to be a school around here somewhere. And sure enough, you’re right. There it is!
But Rambo is oblivious to anything concerning your intentions and he speeds right past your first chance. He’s just zoomed right by the glaring sign - The UNIVERSAL GLOBAL LANGUAGE INSTITUTE of ENGLISH STUDIES..
UGLIES! You’d heard about this place from somebody at your guest house. “They’re always hiring.” (Four bucks an hour to start – but it goes up to five after your first week.)
”That’s it. Stop here! Wait! Stop! Hey! That was UGLIES, man.” you shout as you’re frantically slapping Rambo’s back which he has astutely deciphered as your signal for him to speed-up.
And so he does. Straight through the glaring red light at the intersection where, just on the other side of the street, a small group of uniformed boys in blue with long black billy-sticks are waiting. They’re blocking the way and waving Rambo up onto the sidewalk.
You feel overwhelmed with relief. Finally, you’re meeting someone that can direct you back to UGLIES. And if necessary; to the next school. These good policemen will explain this to Rambo.
But Rambo’s now going through his own pockets hoping beyond the miraculous that moto-ownership-registration, insurance papers and a driver’s licence will magically materialize.
But his pockets are empty, except for the two dollars that you gave him for the green gas and that was just handed over to buy him the freedom to abandon you and his moto and slouch away down the street. Rambo slowly fades away down the street.
So now it’s just you and the boys in blue and you’re sure you’ll be able to work it out with these guys.
With clearly articulated body language and elegant international sign language from the police, you quickly realise that these guys must need ten dollars for something pretty important - and since they’re here to help you – well, it’s a small price to pay. So you eagerly hand over a fresh ten-dollar bill.
Their next sign language indicated at this point uses the extension of the index and the middle finger of one hand while the other fingers are held down. Two.
You’re learning how this all works and your optimism increases as you willingly hand over another (your last) ten-dollar bill.
Now, you’re convinced that you can solve your problem, but they seem to have returned to their traffic monitoring duties. Turning their backs to you and focused on the street, you have just become an ignored non-entity.
At least you can take your back-pack from Rambo’s abandoned moto. So you walk slowly back in the direction of UGLIES. For sure you’ll get one interview in today. And, like your friend said, ‘they’re always hiring.’
With a weakened sense of enthusiasm you slowly amble away. But just as quickly, your enthusiasm re-boots when you hear the unmistakeable sound of Rambo’s moto sputtering behind you!
Great! This was the one guy that spoke the most English and he’s come to help. So, you’re going on and on about teaching jobs and UGLIES and ESL and CLEYTA certificates and, and, and … But your imagined saviour –not understanding what the hell you’re on about - is indifferent to your plight.
This time his one index finger is pointing at the head-lamp of Rambo’s moto which is turned on.
(If you’re a barang, and you’ve been here for any length of time driving a motorcycle, you should be perfectly aware that in Cambodia it’s against the law to drive with your lights on during the daytime.)
”Drive moto. Day time. Five dollar.” and the cop demands as he holds out his hand, and pockets the fiver. The last of your day’s job-search funds.
Unwilling to yield to defeat, you march with even more determination to get the job you’ve already earned at UGLIES. Fifty more metres and you’re there. But it seems awfully quiet to you as you climb the stairs to the front doors which are pad-locked shut. UGLIES is deserted.
A multi-lingual sign on the door reads:
GONE OUT OF BUSINESS – AND WE’VE LEFT TOWN TOO. So long and thanks for the Prahok.
Somehow, you’re beyond any emotional reaction to this news. You just leave and stroll carelessly away, in the same direction leaving UGLIES and your employment dreams behind you.
At the next intersection you look down the street to your left and there, not 100 metres away, is the sign for your Guest House where you and Rambo determinedly shoved off from only four hours ago.
Maybe the guest house video is playing Killing Fields.
In Chapter 3 we’ll discuss submitting resumes, interviews and the true story of Tvon’s first teaching job!

This entry was posted on Wednesday, July 26th, 2006 at 6:05 am


From the Khmer 440 site a short note on the differing attitudes towards traffic safety between those practiced in the western world and those here in Cambodia. This is the full link to the article with pictures and poll(!). The result of the poll until today is 69% no, 31% yes. Without the text is as follows:

Poll: Have or Would you Let Your Baby Ride Around Phnom Penh on a Moto?

A few months back, Britney Spears got a visit from child protection authorities in California for driving her car a few blocks with her baby seated in her lap instead of in a fortress-like car seat. I thought about that one Sunday evening when I was watching motos stacked with families of four or five cruising up and down Sisowath Quay.
For a young family of five, the standard 2-1-2 moto formation seems to be: (2) toddler crouched on father’s lap with hands up on the console in a hood ornament type position, as father drives the moto, (1) oldest child, usually age five to eight, seated squeezed between two parents, and (2) mother seated on the back of the seat holding newborn baby in her hands.
I would like to know if, as a Westerner in Phnom Penh, it’s acceptable to allow your baby/small child to be transported around town by moto, even though you probably would not do this in your home country. Perhaps for the sake of convenience, you would have to allow it, unless you’re going to start taking a car everywhere as soon as the baby is born. The Khmers seem to think it’s safe enough. Of course, some Khmers also seem to think it’s safe to let your three year old kid wander around all day supervised by a five year old.
I just couldn’t imagine the horror of having to call my mom and tell her that her grandson is dead, and when she asks what happened, say “Aah, he fell off the damn motorbike.”

Babies and Phnom Penh Motos
Would you Let Your Baby Ride Around Town on a Moto?

Yes, when in Rome....

No, its too unsafe.

This entry was posted on Friday, July 21st, 2006 at 8:15 pm and is filed under Gavin Mac.

Wednesday, August 09, 2006

From the press: Hopes rest on new law to reduce carnage on roads

From the Phnom Penh Post, July 14-27,2006:

Hopes rest on new law to reduce carnage on roads

By Eva Shum

Weak law enforcement, ignorance of traffic rules, and more traffic driving faster on newly paved roads are all being blamed for a severe increase in traffic accidents in the past few years.

But government officials hope a new traffic law to go to the National Assembly this year will improve driving behaviour and reduce the carnage.

Accident figures from the General Department of Transport showed 1,735 traffic accidents reported in the five months of 2006. About 2,600 people were injured and 454 were killed.

Jean van Wetter, operation co-ordinator of Handicap International Belgium (HI), said the figures were probably underestimated.

“Not every case has been recorded. Maybe no police were at the accident site or they didn’t put it on record,’ Van Wetter said.

He cited the Cambodia Road Traffic Accident and Victim Information System (RTAVIS), which estimated that there were actually around 10,500 road casualties from January to May this year.

The rise in traffic accidents has outpaced the increase in road traffic and population. Over the past five years, the number of accidents increased by 50 percent and road deaths doubled; Cambodia’s population increased by 12 percent, according to RTAVIS.

“Over 90 percent [of accidents] are caused by human error,” Van Wetter said. ”People in Cambodia need to learn how to drive.”

High speed and alcohol or drug abuse are the two major causes, accounting for 60 percent of all traffic accidents.

“There is no law enforcement on speed control,” said Van Wetter. “Speed control is important, but most important is to make sure people know the traffic law.”

Van Wetter expressed concern about drunk driving, which is the second major cause of traffic accidents. He said Cambodians don’t take drunk-driving seriously.

“Even in advertisements, it shows young men drinking alcohol on motorbikes,” he said.

Head injuries are the most common injuries in traffic accidents because so few people wear helmets. RTAVIS figures showed that 39 percent of the accident victims so far in 2006 had suffered from cranial trauma, compared with the world average of 28 percent.

The average cost of medical treatment for an accident is US$99.

Statistics from the Ministry of Public Works and Transport (MPWT) showed that 60 percent of traffic accidents involved motorbikes – 1,858 of them in the first five months of 2006.

A list of registered vehicles in Phnom Penh showed that official motorcycle ownership increased 140 percent between 2004 and 2005. The total number of vehicles registered rose from 28,609 to 56,306.

Only riders of motorbikes 100 cc or higher are required to have driving licenses. There is no age limit or license requirement for motorcycles with engines smaller than 100cc.

The MPWT will present new land traffic legislation to the National Assembly by the end of this year.

The new law will introduce elements that are intended to improve road safety, including compulsory helmets for all two-and three-wheeled vehicles, driving licenses for operating motorbikes larger than 49cc, and blood alcohol limits.

“I think the traffic accidents will be reduced,” said Keo Savin, deputy director of the Land Transport Department at the MPWT.

Savin said his ministry is going to put more effort on improving road surfaces.

But Van Wetter is worried that improvements to roads may trigger more traffic accidents. RTAVIS showed nearly 60 percent of accidents occurred on paved roads.

“The ministry says there are bad traffic conditions because of the roads, but it is the opposite. People pay more attention when driving bad roads, but it is the opposite. People pay more attention when driving bad roads, not good roads,” Van Wetter said. “The point is, we have to make people drive well.”


  • An interesting article, covering many issues. But the arguments seem to be circling. The introduction seems to Crossing Cambodia a correct assumption. However the stats seem to suggest otherwise. The number one cause of accidents is high speed, the number two cause alcohol. So the government suggests more driving licenses (which nobody have now), helmets (how will this affect the causes of accidents) and blood alcohol limits. All very well, but if law enforcement is the problem leading to poor driving behaviour (well, it’s not encouraged if you are allowed to drive on the wrong side of the road), certainly more legislation will not contribute to better law enforcement.
  • If last year the growth of registered vehicles was 140%, by now (August) there should have been nearly double the amount of (registered) vehicles than last year.
  • The RTAVIS shows that 60% of the accidents occurred on paved roads. Crossing Cambodia must admit that some accidents do happen on unpaved roads, but 40% of the total? Surely this can not be correct?
  • Traffic deaths per day, nearly 2.
  • No mention is made of a road code, or of traffic education.

From the press: Truck Plows Into Crowd Eating Noodles, Killing 3

From today's (August 9, 2006) Cambodian Daily:
Three people, including a nine-year-old girl, were killed and 11 injured in Takeo province Monday morning when a truck plowed into a crowd of people eating noodles at the side of the road, police said Tuesday. The truck swerved off the road in an attempt to avoid a motorbike in Traing district, said district police chief Tieng Maly. Police have impounded the truck, he said, but the driver fled on foot and has not been apprehended. “We are keeping the truck in our station and will let the owner come and solve this problem with the victims’ families,” Tieng Maly said, adding that the injured were being treated at Takeo provincial hospital. (Thet Sambath)


  • The roads are dangerous places but as the sidewalks are packed with businesses, they also are dangerous places.

From the press: law steps in

From Bayon Pearnik, issue 120, August 2006:

Phnom Penh’s finest

Yes the boys in blue were at it again the other week removing a car that was illegally parked on the riverfront (even though the no parking signs have disappeared). Well the car in question could not be towed using the spectacle lift so the flatbed crane was called in. This involved parking the truck next to the car thus blocking the road. The pantomime continued for about twenty minutes gridlocking the riverfront. Another example of how to make a mountain out of a molehill.

There's a photo to compliment the story . It's on page 7, the Cockroach (!) corner. with a great photo.

  • There Crossing Cambodia is implying the lack of law and in the meantime it looks like things are happening


Just got back from a journey through South Thailand, Malaysia (is it truly Asia?) and Singapore. It means that in the past 18 months Crossing Cambodia has visited most of Southeast Asia (additionally Lao PDR and Vietnam) as well as China. Good for comparison.

So returning after 3 weeks away what strikes Crossing Cambodia the most. It’s not necessarily the road chaos, other countries have that; Bangkok roads look intimidating as do those of Saigon, Hanoi and Kuala Lumpur.

The difference is that it’s obvious Phnom Penh embraces lawlessness. The question one should ask is why? Certainly it is worthwhile for a government to pursue traffic safety, accidents result in economical damage (material and through loss of life). So less accidents is better for economy. Additionally society is benefited (nobody wants to get wounded, nor face expensive bills). But Cambodian government intervention in traffic regulation tends to focus on direct financial incentives (are taxes being paid?; how can we privatize this public road?). The function of traffic police is dubious: postings often discontinued, police failing to halt offenders and fines are required for tedious offences such as driving a motorcycle during the day with the lights on! And police tend to pick on the less upward mobile.

In all the aforementioned countries governments are actively trying to improve traffic safety. All are way beyond issues such as law abiding. They focus on wearing helmets on bikes (Thailand, Lao PDR) safely crossing roads (Malaysia) or as in the case of Singapore have already attained a good safety record. Why is it that the situation in Cambodia hardly changing. Let’s say it’s got something to do with politics.

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