Crossing Cambodia

Thursday, December 20, 2007

Chasing Cars, Cambodian Style 20-12-2007

  • Vietnam is catching up with Cambodia: as of 15 December wearing helmets is compulsory and universally enforced according to VoA and Reuters.
    In Cambodia wearing a helmet is also compulsory but only 20-30% wear them and the police are very relaxed on enforcement: they don't give a hoot, nor do they have helmets themselves. And the government? ....
    The articles on Vietnam make much of the problems of beauty versus wearing a helmet. Crossing Cambodia wonders why. Have you noticed that here in Phnom Penh it are women who are wearing helmets proportionally more (~50%) than males? Now, why is that?
  • So why are petrol prices in Cambodia so much higher (20-25%) than in neighbouring countries? It's because PM Hun Sen's government 'quietly' subsidizes the prices by over 100 million $USD. Here and here. Unfortunately he fails to clarify how this takes place, and as transparency concerning government expenditure is lacking, he can just as well call any number without being challenged. Wonder how much the Vietnam and Thai governments are 'quietly' subsidizing prices in Cambodia?
  • The main attraction of Phnom Penh, it's waterfront boulevard park, is being dug up which means that tourists have to walk on the road. Just for the coming year. At least Phnom Penh's traffic police are getting into action, towing away parked vehicles, which has lead to an unicum: '
    'You might have noticed you can actually walk along some parts of the pavement now...'
  • A great article in December's SE Globe, unfortunately, too long to type and too bulky (8 MB) to download. 'Back seat drivers' explores the current and future prospectives of Phnom Penh's cyclo's. Many cyclo's face hard conditions making ends meet. The article ends on a positive note:
    'With tourist numbers on the increase and the municipality considering limiting the number of tuk-tuks [are they?] in the city centre, maybe the future for Phnom Penh's cyclo drivers is not as bleak as it appears at first glance'.
    Furthermore in the same issue a 'comment' on the widespread acceptance of impunity which leads to negligence when it comes to individual responsibility in Cambodia's modern society:
    ' ... personal responsibility has been characterized by a careless hit-and-run approach'.

Wednesday, December 12, 2007

Chasing Cars, Cambodian Style 12-12-2007

  • Connecting Phnom Penh to Europe, Air Finland is connecting us with ...., no not Finland, but Sweden and only 3 times per month and only for a couple of months. And you can only book seats if you can read Finnish. And the future is bright, as the five year old company has only 1 plane, according to Wikipedia (Dutch version, English version is not up to date).
  • The price of fuel (continued): Vrom Vietnam comes the lamentations concerning subsidizing their petrol prices and a big chunk of Cambodia's fuel bill. The result:
    'Vietnamese farmers cannot purchase oil for their pumps because filling stations and privately owned petrol shops only want to sell oil and petrol to Cambodians who will pay more'.
    So what to do? In Vietnam the response is to lament:
    'Our staff is too small to deal with the strong force of illegal exporters, Mr Tien, Head of the Ha Tien Border Gate’s Customs Agency said'.
    On the other side of Cambodia, local Thai authorities are not sitting idle:
    'People in Cambodia's Koh Kong province are facing a shortage of cooking gas after Thai authorities stepped up a campaign against unauthorised exports of cooking gas'.
    Again supplying Cambodia with subsidized gas is the culprit. And what is Cambodia's view of the situation? Sokimex (a local fuel supplier) owner, Sok Kong, he just reiterates all the complaining Cambodians who are stuck with high 'official' prices but for their moto's it's a low price, because the Thai and the Vietnamese are subsidizing them.
    'And for us, we are so poor that we don't have that[subsidies]'.
    He does however have some hope for Khmer citizens:
    'We might be able to reduce the oil price in 2010 or 2020 when we can extract our crude oil'.
    An anonymous writes in on KI Media:
    'The price of gasoline is kept artificially high to ensure that Sokimex (owned by Sok Kong) and Tela (owned by Bun Rany) can smuggle cheap gasoline from Vietnam and make extraordinary profits'.
  • And what happens to the collected taxes and savings made from not financing increasing global warning: a 10 million dollar road programme is 'corrupted':
    'Many roads are left the same; nothing improves .... he [foreign engineer] reported that he did not see any repairmen or equipment on the road in Kampong Thom province'.
  • Letter to the Editor, Cambodia Daily, December 11, 2007:
    'Phnom Penh's Traffic Problem needs Fixing
    With influx of tourists and foreign direct and indirect investments, public transports have now become, to me personally, the biggest problem facing Phnom Penh. Currently in Phnom Penh most of the roads are jammed all the time, which affects public order, loses us time, blocks most economic activity, and negatively affects other financial benefits of the people and entities. Cambodia seems to have no traffic experts at all, and everyone seems to be ignorant about the impact this problem could have on the economy. I hope the government acts now to facilitate everyone's livelihood, as well as attracting even more foreign investment.
    Lay Vicheka, Hong Kong'.
    Key words: ignorant

Thursday, December 06, 2007

Safety First

Co-incidental or not, two articles in yesterday's (December 5, 2007) Cambodia Daily highlighted aspects of transport safety and the way that Cambodian authorities view this.

The first article is on a draft Civil Aviation Law to regulate air travel.
'Secretary of State at the State Sectretariat of Civil Aviation told the Assembly that the draft law is meant to enhance passengers' safety and security and to ...'
However what the draft law only does is to make the commercial operators liable for accidents causing injury to passengers.

Cambodian aviation resulted in two accidents in the past year, both by aging ex-Soviet planes, one with loss of life. Considering this in respect to hardly having any internal air traffic or Cambodia-originating international flights, it was of course logical, that an opposition MP (SRP MP Sok Pheng) would seek to ban these aircraft, however Mao Ha Savanna (the same as above? the source), State Secretary of the National Civil Aviation Department, replied that it is not the type of aircraft which determines the accident. In the meantime, the accident earlier this year above and in the Cardomom mountains is yet to be explained and family of the deceased to receive their insurance pay-outs.

With the oncoming investment of an Indonesian firm in a Cambodia flag carrier and with these kind (Piece of Wing found on Runway in Jakarta;
Do you own a plane? Is it missing a piece of wing? If so, it's lying on the runway at Jakarta's international airport. Officials there don't know which ...) of accidents / incidents common in Indonesia even after receiving widespread international condemnation this year, one might think that Cambodian aviation might not improve much in the near future. And what about Cambodia's track record on law enforcement?

Meanwhile another article above this one, described what can mentioned as 'Mutiny on the Tonle Sap'. Apparently a ferry carrying tourists from Siem Reap to Phnom Penh started taking in water. The crew were very relaxed on this, actually so relaxed they let the passengers take the helm and steer the boat to nearest shore (remember Tonle Sap is a lake) while
'sealing the hole on the portside withwood from the boat's staircase, passengers' T-shirts, and a rubber sandal'.
On nearing the shore an even bigger surprise [at least that's what Crossing Cambodia thinks]: police had sent a rescue boat! The ferry (with 100-plus passengers) was brought to a nearby harbour where the hole was welded . Province of Kampong Chnang deputy police chief:
'If the boat had just continued to Phnom Penh, it would have sunk because the hole was getting bigger and bigger'.
The owner denies the whole event even took place and explains that there was no danger and no 'mutiny'. And what about the government regulation / intervention? None.

In the meantime Cambodia has been identified as a state with 'negative performance indicators' according to Round Table of international shipping associations. Together with amongst others Congo, North Korea and Mongolia [!].

So what about the safety? Who cares. Compare the following (non-edited) article (from the Khmer News site) with the negligence of Cambodian authorities to enforce their approved traffic law which requires compulsory helmet use:
'Head completely destroyed after crashed
Sunday, December 02, 2007
Phnom Penh: A lady with her head broken and brain came out, died instantly after a crash along Chorm Chao road in Dorg Kor district. This accident occurred at 5. 05 pm on 1st December, while the victim riding on a motorbike taxi in the same direction with the truck. When arriving at the place, the truck increased its speed that making the motorbike rider at the back dropped from her sit staying under the truck’s tire. There her head was completely crashed and died immediately, whereas the truck driver could not be arrested'.

Tuesday, December 04, 2007

Chasing Cars Cambodian Style, December 4, 2007

  • Despite the recent surge and the ever increasing land grabbing in Cambodia, work on the already approved and financed 2 km stretch of highway number 1 is delayed
    'due to the tardiness of the Cambodian side to resolve disputes on lands bordering the road'.
    Does this signify a change in government policy?
  • Did you notice the scouts and girl guides were at it again on Saturday morning? On various corners of the most important crossroads in Phnom Penh, scouts and girl guides were using flags to make sure vehicles remained behind the line while the lights were red. By eleven they were off for lunch and failed to reappear. Did this have something to do with the visit of Burma's PM?

Wow, everybody stands in attention.
  • 'Green: go, Orange: speed up, Red: still go'.
    At least that's this bloggers assumption of Phnom Penh traffic. He recommends an IQ test. How about law enforcement?
  • Reuters has little idea about roads in Lao and Cambodia. On the participation of Lao and Cambodia at the current Southeast Asian games:
    'The teams from Laos and Cambodia will travel for hours along their notoriously potholed roads before being picked up by a fleet of Thai buses'.
    The distance from Vientiane to the border is 20 km, half an hour, just 1 or 2 potholes. The pothole sections in Cambodia are the roads to Siem Reap. Facts gentleman, facts!
  • Cambodia Daily (December 3, 2007) reports on a drunken policeman who crashed his Toyota (yes, it was a Camry) causing two deaths and 1 injury. He however was not arrested (even though he hit a fellow officer after the accident) but will be called in for questioning
    'when he feels better'.
    Considering he just has killed two persons, Crossing Cambodia believes that he will not ever feel better in the rest of his life. Or at least he should not.
  • More lights for Cambodia's city of lights. Six sets of traffic lights. Now if everyone would take notice of them .... . Ostensibly they are there for 'beautification' (the colours CC presumes) and for 'alleviating traffic' (to which less and less people are adhering).What about producing more scouts and girl guides to patrol the lights?
  • Another new phenomena at important crossroads: child beggars, esp. at the corner of Sihanouk and Charles de Gaulle Boulevards. Fortunately they only target unsuspecting (and guilty feeling) foreigners, mostly in tuk-tuks on their way to the 'Killing Fields'.
  • Nothing to do? Join PEPY (Protect the Earth. Protect Yourself) cycle tours around Cambodia.
  • The going rate for petrol in Cambodia is more than $1, shock horror! Inflationary pressure, moto-taxi's going out of business. Meanwhile over the border in Vietnam, government subsidies mean petrol is 20% cheaper. What happens. Along the streets of Phnom Penh you can buy your petrol for a discount of 20-25%! Why lament Cambodia's governments inability to subsidize it's fuel supply, when you can get the Vietnamese to foot the bill?
  • Our sports desk reports on the the first international professional golf tournament, won by a Grateful dead fan (.100 concert visits), Bryan Saltus. His caddie receives a new motorcycle for her effort. And any complaints. None at least from the Cambo PM who teed off the event, this in spite of him complaining about the state of the 'road' (or was it one big pothole) earlier in the year. Possibly his driver can see the potholes as the rains have stopped!

Friday, November 30, 2007

Statistical Analysis

During the past year and half mention has often been made of the Road Traffic Accident Victim Information System, a BTC, Handicap International and Cambodian government initiative to register and provide information on traffic accidents. besides annual reports there are monthly reports which can be downloaded from the Road Safety Site.

The September 2007 report is available online and Crossing Cambodia would like to draw you more into the details:
  • Three quarter of the victims / those involved were males!
  • In September only 2% of the casualties were car drivers, nearly 10% pedestrians! [there are hardly any pedestrians and at this rate not many will be left]
  • Nearly half suffered head injuries
  • Most casualties occur from 5-8 pm
  • Three percent of the casualties were due to driving in the wrong direction
  • Forty percent of the accidents were between motorcycles, 7% were singular motorcycle accidents
  • A quarter of the four-wheel vehicles involved had the steering wheel on the wrong side
  • Only 4 % of the motorcyclists involved had helmets on
  • Nearly 40% of the casualties needed more than 2 hours to get to the hospital
  • Preah Vihear is one of the safest provinces (concerning traffic): only 3 accidents this year, Oddar Meanchey only had 9 accidents, but the figures seemed flawed: in some months there were traffic related deaths but no accidents. The same flaws seem apparent with Kep province, two accidents and three deaths
As you can see from these statistics there are convincing cases to be made to ensuring traffic laws currently described in the traffic law to be enforced, even if they would be piecemeal, i.e. making everyone wear helemets. However, ....

Stan the Man

Stan is well known on this site for a few postings referring to publications on the Khmer 440 site which earned him a write upon Crossing Cambodia. Considering he managed today (30 November, 2007) to make The Cambodia Daily 'Letter to the Editor' section, on a subject ,not only dear to our heart, but the topic of the previous posting, I feel compelled to retype it here:
Trams a Nice Idea but Buses Needed Now

Now there's talk of a tram system for Phnom Penh. A short while ago it was a skytrain. Both are great ideas and essential for a modern city's future but both are akin to expecting a baby to walk or even run before it learns to crawl.

What a city needs is a bus system which would be easier, cheaper, simpler and faster to initiate than rail transit. In any case, it would take years to get trams or skytrains operational, whereas Phnom Penh needs public transit now.

Besides, buses are needed regardless: rail transit is not a substitute for a bus system, only a complement. The city is densifying very quickly along with accelerating growth in vehicle registrations.

People who applaud the new sky-scrapers being constructed in Phnom Penh don't seem to realize that bringing large numbers of people to those destinations will also bring traffic chaos if those workers and visitors don't have the option of getting there by mass transit. A bus system should be one of the city's highest priorities.

Stan Kahn, Phnom Penh
This is very much in line with what Crossing Cambodia suggested a couple of days ago. Co-incidentally,the rest of the page was dedicated to an article on (the failures of) modernism. Is this similarly a case? Believing that the Messiahs will arrive once Phnom Penh has a tram and or Skytrain? Think again!

Tuesday, November 27, 2007

Cambodian Officialdom on Planes, Trains and Assorted

Sometimes reporting on transport concerns in Cambodia has much to do with 'Aladdin and his magic lamp", Alladin being Cambodian officials, the lamp representing the 'idea'.

Take for example a number of messages the last week.
Case 1: Cambodia to set up new national airline
As reported all over the world, but here linking to the article on the KI Media website. The essence: Cambodia's government strikes a deal with an Indonesian company allowing it to operate a national flag carrier in return for a significant amount of the profit.

Two problems in this story, they are 'national' and 'profit'. The current situation in Cambodian skies is that there is no government owned airline (though there are other Cambodian companies such as Royal Khmer and President Airlines), a unique factor which has attributed to the overall growth of the tourism sector, one of the main pillars of Cambodia's economy. With the absence of vested (national and thus political) interests, the Cambodian government has been encouraging as much business as possible. the more the merrier. Nearly everyone can fly in to / out of Phnom Penh and whether they make a profit or not is not the Cambodia's government's concern. The one exception is the Bangkok - Siem Reap sector which is run as a monopoly by Bangkok Airways, condoned by the current Cambodian government.

So why now try to set up a national flag carrier? With the significant recent growth of tourism, the perception has been that Cambodia's economy fails to profit sufficiently. One problem is the lack of national production meeting tourists demand. As such nearly everything is flown in, leaving just construction and employment in tourist services as significantly contributing to the Cambodian economy. To address this 'leakage' problem, the idea apparently is to get an airline in place and tax the profits. One problem is that even if profits are forthcoming (a big problem for other flag carriers in Southeast Asia) accounting procedures in Cambodia are hardly established meaning that the Cambodian government may well see nothing of it's share of the profits. Even though they have a substantial part of the airline, the aircraft will probably be leased, so the government is getting 51% of the airlines assets which equals zero, which in Crossing Cambodia's calculation is still zero.

That said, in the meantime there may be the possibility to commandeer seats or even a whole aircraft so as to get officials kids/wives to school/shopping in Bangkok / Hong Kong, a phenomena which has arisen in recent years just over Cambodia's eastern border.

But with the current 'open skies' policy, there is hardly any room for extra flights (i.e. there is perfect competition). This implies that these policies must change so as to allow the national carrier to access profitable routes (to / from Thailand and / or China) or (so as not too frighten the current carriers) to make sure any future growth in flights to Cambodia is awarded to the national flag carrier.

Even though some questions remain (how big will the flag carrier be?), with the signature of Peter Sondakh, the Cambodian government seems to have a guarantee that future payments to the state will take place. Mr. Sondakh is an Indonesian with quite some experience and very deep pockets: his company is currently trying to take over the Indonesia flag carrier, Garuda. However, Indonesia has in the past had massive problems with corruption as well as having a dismal record in regulating it's skies, not necessarily aspects which would look good on a potential airline's investor's report card. With Cambodia's recent past in aviation littered by accidents and failed airlines one might wonder whether or not this investment will assist Cambodia at all.

But one thing that does stick is that in the run-up to elections, playing to nationalistic sentiments surely must pay off. But whether it makes economic sense?

Case 2: French company plans to operate trams in Cambodia
The full story here. The essence. Big French muliti-billion company (Alsthom) devise plan to have it's products up and running in Cambodia. It impresses local officials who will now support it. No mention is made of who will pay for this.

Possibly this latter, is part of the overall strategy: here we are, we will solve all your plans, you just have to start to yearn /crave for it, then cough up some money (in case no money is forthcoming maybe we can ask French 'gouvernement' for some bridging finance, possibly with some EU money somewhere along the track). Whether or not it solves the problem is entirely besides the question, who doesn't want to impress all and sundry (including voters) with a swish train / tram / lorrie which does not seem to cost anything?

Just a few months back, the Thai were here proclaiming how their Skytrain would be up and running in the near future.

Possibly both the Thai and the French should heed the experience of the Japanese who couldn't even get a bus system running within Phnom Penh. Let's hope the Chinese can get a reliable taxi system working (should not be beyond them).

So should we not dream? Yes, no problem with that, but current problems with traffic congestion are simply due to the lack of adhering to a simple language of red light means stop. Last Tuesday evening Crossing Cambodia plied through Monivong Boulevard during rush hour while it was totally packed, but only due to the fact that the main crossings were blocked and blocked again. Get everyone to stop when lights are red, go when green and the need for sophisticated systems of transport will not be required at least for the near future.

If starting now with a city bus system , this would be effective in 1-2 years time and in 5 years time look for a mass transport system, preferably underground, that's how it is done internationally, even in Bangkok and Paris!

Case 3: Dong Thap [province in vietnam] approves road link to Cambodia. The link, the essence: with just 4.5 million dollars this Vietnamese province will build a road, basically for their own satisfaction. Where's the money coming from?[everybody suddenly takes an interest in their shining shoes and /or are all the lights on?]

Case 4:Cambodia asks China, India, Japan to help improve rural projects
The link, the essence of the stories: Hun Sen (the ever-serving Cambodian PM) needs to develop the country fast (after all elections are coming up in six months) so he now requests China and Japan for hand-outs. What the Chinese get out of the deal Crossing Cambodia hardly knows, but they tend to look well after themselves (as do all other 'donors'). With Toyota cars making up half of the standard Cambodian car-park, their 'donation' will always reap handsome rewards.

But what do the cases have in common? A lack of vision, a lack of will to tackle the problems themselves, a absolute disregard to finances ('Cambodia is such a poor country, please forgive us our debts') and a faith in piecemeal approaches to overall economic and social problems. It all seems to be tied in with power, the power to have and how to keep this power.
Well, as long as it's not Crossing Cambodia's money, it's not my problem. What does worry Crossing Cambodia is that in the event of an adverse economic climate elsewhere (the states?) how at all will the country survive? On nearly all aspects Cambodians rely and continue to rely on having absolute faith in the goodness of foreigners / foreign countries to dole out money to address their simple problems. In Thailand you win elections promoting self-sufficiently, here presumably by passing the bill on to future generations, be they Cambodian or foreigners. Let's hope that the money tap continues to be open for a long, long time, while the local politicians start rubbing up the lamp once more!

Cambodia's main railroad from phnom Penh to the coast!

Tuesday, November 20, 2007

Chasing Cars Cambodian Style, 20 November 2007

  • With law enforcement high on the agenda at least in the Cambodian newspapers, it's good to see other countries improving their safety records. According to the Bangkok Post (no link) a law was passed last week banning the use of mobile phones by drivers while their vehicles are moving. Though novel in Thailand, the new traffic law in Cambodia already bans this. Surprisingly if you're driving a motorcycle with a computer modem between your legs and an old-fashioned monitor under one arm, this is perfectly legal. The same in Thailand. The same Thailand also reported how an army helicopter was (mis-)used to pick up mushrooms for the pilots mother!
  • How to get Cambodians to wear helmets? A ceremony. That's what happened in Battambang province according to Khmer This approach tactic already seems to be working:
    'In 2007, about 1,693 victims was suffered from traffic accidents in Battambang province, among them 5 people was dead. It is decreased [!] if compared to last year’s statistic'.
  • More happy people over at the Department of Land Transport. More than 30,000 students have taken driving lessons since the beginning of September. The number of licenses issued has skyrocketed to 7,894; that bearing in mind that the total number of motor drivers with license was 2,085 if the count starts in January 1990!
  • Boat racing is here and tuk-tuks are out! Out of the city center according to city officials, not that it really mattered, from late afternoon onwards you can only walk. Four million visitors are expected.

Monday, November 19, 2007

Accident aftermath

The main traffic related news of the last few days, has been the tragic incident, which resulted in the death of a French woman, who was here 'interning' Crossing Cambodia believes. At least big news in Phnom Penh.

Just to recap (though a link to an AFP report of the accident on KI Media is here): The victim was on the back of a moto, during mid-day. So-called purse snatchers try to steal her purse, but are only able to drag her off the motorcycle into the path of a minivan which could not avoid her, resulting in her death. But both culprits as well as the driver of moto and van have disappeared, the police are trying to explain that this was just a traffic accident.

Besides this line, there are quite a few aspects related to this incident: the KI Media site (in the aforementioned article) has 21 reactions so far (mostly lamented the lack of law and order in Hun Sen's era) and Khmer 440 has currently more than 6 pages of comments on their forum (mostly pointing out the lack of security, though (tastelessly) also commenting on how a purse over the shoulder can add attraction to the female physique).

Though I have some comments myself, today's (November 19, 2007) Cambodia Daily 'Letter to the Editor' captures quite a bit of what I would like to add. As these letters are less often available on the i-net, this is the whole letter:
'Take Steps to make Phnom Penh Safer.
I have been very sadden to learn that another victim, this time a French woman, Aurelia Lacroix, has died from a tragedy caused most likely by bag-snatchers who dragged her into the path of an approaching mini-van on one of the main Phnom Penh roads.
I'd first like to offer my heartfelt condolences to the family of Ms. Lacroix and other victims of such crimes. Also I would like to appeal to the national police to take more immediate and appropriate measures to stop high-speed bag snatchings and other far too common crimes like robbing and killing people for their motorbikes, or the snatching of belongings.
This recent incident has arguably worsened perceptions of security among the Phnom Penh residents and tourists.
Many people recommend that the following measures should be taken:
  • More policemen should be deployed to regularly patrol the roads.
  • Surveillance camera's should be installed at various corners of the main streets or other public places that have a high prevalence of crimes.
  • Greater means of communication are needed to catch the thieves.
  • Individuals providing public transport - especially tuk-tuk, motorbike taxi and cyclo drivers - should be encouraged to cooperate more with the police,as they are often very close to the crime scenes.
  • The police should be physically and financially equipped to do their jobs. Police should be fairly paid, more careful attention should be paid to them, and rewards should be offered to motivate them.
If the above recommendations are genuinely followed, everyone will surely be proud of the national police and enjoy living in a more peaceful and secure environment. Not only would a state of good security win applause from Cambodians but it would also attract more tourists, increasing employment for local people.

Muong Nareth, Phnom Penh'.

Crossing Cambodia would like to agree with the assumption that these kind (or worse) of unfortunate incidents are commonplace in Cambodia and they are by no means confined to just these knacks of the wood; the same happens daily, down under, in Europe or North America; the only difference is that this time the victim is a foreigner.

Does this mean that this sort of crime should be ignored? Certainly not, but the culture of impunity in Cambodia is very much pervasive. Changing this is difficult, though with the Khmer Rouge (leaders) now publicly on trial, it seems that there is more willingness of officials to tackle those living on the wrong side of the law, irrespective of their (financial) power, but being a CPP party member is still very much relevant as to claim immunity. In time, the above process will hopefully result in better policing on the streets. The letter writer fails to notice that the tools for policing are there in the form of laws. The lack of policing is not due to lack of incentives or facilities but a lack of willingness.

One aspect which does not seem to take much notice, is that the victim had no helmet (Phnom Penh Post published a photo of victim after the accident, which stirred up a lot of controversy). Despite this being required by law as well as being advised nearly on all sites giving advice on traffic (related) issues. Without knowing the exact causes of her death, I can not say for sure, but possibly the outcome might have been different has she been wearing a helmet.

Ensuring general safety on the roads is the task of police (as enforcers) and the administration (by providing 'tools' and encouraging the process). In that the Cambodian authorities have dismally failed. Let's hope the this accident helps the authorities to get their priorities right: ensuring public safety is a must for any government, where ever, when ever.

Sunday, November 11, 2007

Chasing Cars Cambodian Style,12 November 2007

  • Gasoline prices soar?
    'Prices at Phnom Penh's Chevron (former Caltex), Sokimex, Total and Tela stations jumped to 4,450 riel (about 1.1 U.S. dollars) Monday from 4,050 riel (about one dollars) per liter for "premium" gasoline, the Cambodia Daily newspaper said'.
    Well, what's surprising is that local vendors, seen yesterday, charge 3100 - 3300 Riel, roughly 25% less! So, no wonder the official pumps are never busy.
    One reason for the price rises which the article fails to reflect, is that due to the dollarisation of the local Cambodian economy, all price rises in the world market price for oil, are automatically met by price rises at the pump in Cambodia, though in most countries this has been off-set with the current weakening of the US dollar, which means that in neighbouring countries petrol is becoming relatively cheaper which in turn leads to more smuggling.
  • Naturally, the opposition seized on the increase in fuel prices to lambast government, even blaming the government for:
    'The price of gasoline has nearly tripled this year, ...'.
    Problem is that this is not true or have I been sleeping? Thanx to KIMedia and VOA.
  • Talking about elections: Hun Sen sees his new opposition in the increasing number of street racers. What will he do? Hun Sen said:
    “Some kids have all the time they need, and they even have the money but they turn around and race cars and motorcycles instead, and in doing so they create unsafe problems in the past few days,....
    Hun Sen severely stressed: “I will fire (the parents) for you to see.... In the past, you do not want to report them to me, ...
    But you (police officers) do not dare report these cases to me, if you were to report them to me, I will fire the parents immediately, if Hun Sen cannot do that, I will resign.”
    And these are just some excerpts, it all seems so harsh. The KIMedia article generates a lot of interest, 39(!) comments. Then KI Media produce their own article (a unicum?), though by then many other media have mentioned this case. They name the culprit (Ung Vanna, son of 3 star general Ung Samkham) and are now waiting for the government to respond. Let's hope they are not holding their breath.
  • In the meantime it looks like Phnom Penh is of the verge of entering the taxi-era.
    'City inks deal to 300 Cabs to Streets'
    is the front page headline news from The Cambodia Daily on the 7th of November 2007. The taxi charges are meant to be 0.50 $US per km. This despite the article mentioning that the Vietnamese try-out of a few months back has floundered. It apparently did not have an official contract, though that seems to be just part of the reason. Oh yeah, the new taxis will not be operating from the airport, as these 'airport taxi's' are already involved in some 'official' racket. My cabbie mentioned something of having to pay 7,000 $US for the privilege to pick up incoming passengers and charge them a couple of dollars more.
  • Vietnam earmark 1.8 billion (!) $US for an expressway between Chau Doc (Vietnam) and Phnom Penh, the Cambodian Daily reported. The Cambodia official side seem to know little about the project.
  • More violence:
    'Two police detained in shooting after crash',
    the Cambodian Daily reported on November 8, 2007. Here we complain about law enforcement and now the law is enforced, ...
    No, no: the setting: Car A hits B (unclear whether vehicle B is a car of motorcycle). One passenger in vehicle B dies, wife and child are injured. Car A continues and driver of A (son of a provincial deputy police chief) consequently flees. However his license plate remains at crash site. Person X takes license plate as an 'insurance'. Two police offers shoot person X (in the chest) as he fails to hand them the license plate. Family of deceased refrain from pursuing complaint as perpetrator has already paid compensation. That's the way things go here.

Road Tips

Adding to the informative amount of ways of coping with Phnom Penh traffic, the following text is lifted from the Phnom Penh Out and About Cambodia Pocket Guide:
'Road Tips 202
Beware fat cat road hogs and pop-star-wannabe “Dream” pilots. Their survivability rivals that of even the hardiest of cockroaches.

The advent of paved roads and traffic lights has brought a veneer of order to Phnom Penh streets. But underlying this windshield-transparent facade are the same behaviours shared by local drivers since the internal combustion engine first appeared along the boulevards. At first glance, the neophyte sees nothing but chaos. However, there is a system in place that belies first impressions. Understanding it will go a long way toward one’s continued well being behind the wheel or handlebars. Here are a few pointers.

Tip #1: Don’t hit anything.
Okay, this may seem obvious. But even a simple fender-bender will be more time consuming than you think. As a foreigner, chances are you are white and immediately subject to the principle of “skin tax”. Simply put, you are in the wrong no matter what (Khmer logic: you're a foreigner, and if you weren't here, the accident wouldn't have happened) and therefore subject to the extraction of as much money as the other party can manage. The easiest way to avoid this is not get into an accident, period.

Tip #2: Crossing busy intersections.
It’s acceptable to creep into the flow of traffic to make space for yourself. Make yourself visible and use your skin colour to your advantage; a Lexus driver understands that it will be much more of a hassle if he damages a foreigner than if he merely flattens a local. Think of yourself as a Ming Dynasty vase in a moving creek. Keep your inner calm and allow the traffic to flow around you. Better still, ally yourself with a few other vehicles, a car or two will come in handy here, and edge into the flow with your impromptu school of other small fish.

Tip #3: Speed.
This is controversial. There’s a school of thought that implies if you go fast enough, you don’t have to worry about half of the traffic, the half behind you that is. There’s some validity to this, but while technically, if you’re hit by someone behind you it’s their fault, it may not do you much good if you’re mashed into a fleshy pulp. And even if you aren’t, see Tip #1. The other and probably safer opinion is to go slow. Motos in close proximity usually have a surprisingly keen perception of their situational awareness and will make a space, albeit small, for you and your movements. You can inform the more oblivious ones of your presence with a chirp from your horn or a rev of your engine.

Tip #4: Turning left.
This manoeuvre is a bit more advanced and will test your 360 degree peripheral vision. Immediately turn left sticking as close to the curb as possible, swerving around any mobile vendors as necessary. Oncoming traffic will give you right of way but beware cops who will attempt to ticket you. To cross over, scan the oncoming traffic for a hole, which you can use to scoot across their lane(s), while simultaneously scanning the right-lane traffic behind you for a gap there. Scoot with authority.

Tip #5: On that note, sound.
This may appear a bit rude, but can save paint, glass and skin. Drivers are getting used to horns and therefore their value is on the decline. Consider a pipe for your bike that if not loud, at least has a distinguishing tone. Locals love novelty and anything different including the tone of your bike; it will alert others to your presence. Of course, you can choose to wear a helmet, but that kind of takes the sport out of it doesn’t it?'
Fair or not? Well, despite the racial undertones (whites vs Khmer) Crossing Cambodia believes this a fair reflection of the on-road situation. But it is just a starter, the reality requires much more information, which if you care to look through some of the postings on this site, you would gain much more information. .

Monday, November 05, 2007

Chasing Cars, 6 November 2007

Missed Crossing Cambodia? Nah? Hmm, wondering wants happening to the site? Keep wondering, Crossing Cambodia has some long term plans ....

In the meantime, CC just came back from a week holidays. Cambodia was world news! For what? The local supremo's adopted daughter officially switches sexual preference, so as a good surrogate father you cut them from your will. Don't worry, even Dick Cheney (the Darth Vader?) has these kinds of problems.

Furthermore the North Korea PM paid his Cambodian cronies a visit, to bolster economic and cultural ties.

And finally the traffic news: DPA picked upon a recent trend to use animal noises as horns. Crossing Cambodia has not witnessed this himself, though once saw a foreigner on a motorcycle using his horn which resembled a policeman blowing his whistle. It didn't help much and anyway it's not allowed anymore (for fear of 're-education' [like the sound of that]). More tidbits:
  • Believe the new traffic law means every one can get a traffic license without paying all and sundry? Think again. The Phnom Penh Post apparently uncovers scams costing more than $100 to get a driver's license without sitting any exam.
  • See picture, Pol Pot's car is for sale.
  • Rainy season means thousands of trucks stuck on national highway 57
  • Getting stuck? The Bangkok - Siem Reap blog Updates Report on October 2007, mentions
    'mafia taxi's'.
    Apparently run by the maffia for the public good. One report:
    'The road to SR is still a mess but passable with care'.
    Another lady mentions:
    'Believe me after that 6 1/2 hrs taxi ride I was pretty upset, ...'.
  • Less stuck is this expose called Rush hour at Angkor: visiting the temples by push-bike. Conclusion:
    'I'm well and truly spent. One day of this type of exertion is plenty...'.
  • Getting unstuck and less exerting: Dancing Roads Dirtbike:
    'Brave yourself against seemingly impassable roads, ...'.
  • Getting stuck at the Lao-Cambodian border: Sun san's forum entry on Khmer 440 shows you the way north from Phnom Penh, literally on his flickr site.
Then finally a round up of all kind of miscellaneous announcements on infrastructure / government decisions:
  • Free skies coming your way?
    'It's open skies as 10 Southeast Asian nations agreed this to week to have free air access between their capital cities by December next year'.
    Pie in the sky.
  • Building bridges in times of elections.
  • And what all this can lead to? Vietnam News reports that the city Hue is unable to cope with just the Thai arrivals, what with a new bridge over the Mekong and a beauty of a road to Central North coast of Vietnam. On the 23rd of October more than 6,000 Thai visited Hue, however it only has 'nearly 6,000 rooms'.

Friday, October 26, 2007

Synopsis of more than a year of postings

After more than a year of putting up posts on the subject of traffic and Cambodia, it’s time to look into more depth into the intentions which formed part of the reason for starting up this blog. The exact idea was as follows. It’s is an exact copy of the sub-head, which came with this site for the past year:
Crossing Cambodia is an exploration of the various methods the Cambodian population uses to get to their destination, be it on a regular basis or irregular such as travelling upcountry. With this exploration Crossing Cambodia hopes to provide more insight in the relation between transport and society. Crossing Cambodia believes that the difference between cultures/traffic habits in various countries is an important aspect in the development process.
Mostly the above has been answered, but fear not, Crossing Cambodia will remain in part to provide visitors with up to date information on Cambodia’s travel infrastructure, the way it’s being used and the most recent developments concerning legality of moving around Cambodia.

During this year long trek along various Cambodian traffic aspects, the following are the most significant:

• current traffic habits and the lack of law enforcement.

• the haphazard method of implementing traffic rules and regulations by both police and government officials.

• the lack of foresight in solving traffic problems.

• the way Cambodia lets the playing field (policies on traffic issues) be dictated by foreign institutes.

These aspects are very much at the forefront of the general overall development process, at least those as perceived by western donor nations: lawless land grabbing, corruption everywhere and the lack of targeting the unprivileged (rural) poor. So, naturally the conclusion must be that traffic situations are very much related to society.

In Crossing Cambodia’s first blog (posted on the sixth of June 2006, we’re at posting no. 275 by now, 24 October 2007), it’s mentioned that the nature of traffic in Cambodia is
‘Chaotic, anarchic, odd’.
Is this true?

  • Chaotic? Yes, not only this site has given ample space to this aspect, it’s backed up by many other opinions ventilated on other websites, so it must be true. In total 10 postings refer to Cambodian traffic being chaotic.
  • Anarchic? Yes, same explanation as for chaotic. But as anarchic refers to a certain political aspect (or lack of it), just the three postings mentioning anarchic.
  • Odd? Hmmm, more peculiar wouldn’t you think? But still the word odd has popped up in 8 postings.

Other distinctions from the very first posting mentioned were: forward looking (in the sense of no looking back), class distinctive (shiny happy people first), risky. All have been proven to be true, more or less.

But would you use these terms to describe Cambodian culture in general? Crossing Cambodia believes so. Especially the on-going saga of traffic law and enforcement (or the failure to enforce) proves the above mentioned points. Everybody agrees with the chaotic and anarchic attitude. Most of this is brought about by the need to attain short term gain over any long term gain. This lack of long term thinking permeates the whole society, Crossing Cambodia can’t explain why, it’s just the way it is. If a new traffic law could ensure a more structured way in which traffic moves in Cambodia, everybody stands to win. However law enforcers are heavily influenced by the need to take class into the equation when apprehending an offender. The offender though counts on this, so the more expensive a car looks, the less he will need to go by the rulebook. Society in Cambodia is very much the same. The more money one has or the higher their function, the less they tend to stay within the limits of the law or, even better, use the law to justify their actions. Who will apprehend them? No one, they are the law or at least the main source of funding of the law. It’s more or less the same.

To anyone who disagrees with this, Crossing Cambodia would like to point to neighbouring countries, where traffic situations are different, partially due to development (Thailand, Malaysia), but more due to culture. Why is law abiding practiced in Lao, but not in Cambodia. Why can Vietnam pursue compulsory helmet use, but Cambodia not?

Probably, relating traffic to culture / society is an easy task, however moving one up, by say how can things get better, is something more complex. It takes some guts to try to improve things. Possibly, that what’s missing in Cambodian culture, guts to take decisions not knowing whether you can get away with them. Plenty of guts are shown by those in command whose sole purpose is to hang on there. Gutsy are also the local breed of businessman in the safe knowledge that political backing ensures success and buying oneself out of trouble is commonplace.

Surprisingly the other morning an article on the KI Media site (originally from UPI) Crossing Cambodia came upon, compares (legal systems) Cambodia with India:
'Why do ordinary people resort to extraordinary means to protect their personal safety? The answer is simple - their perception of the security and safety provided by the government is low. On this count Indians and Cambodians probably share the same feeling. To find out more one need not conduct a yearlong survey or read a few dozen books. One need only observe what is going on in the street.


These acts by law enforcement officers are not just a simple form of corruption. This is how the government portrays itself to ordinary people. Such acts speak volumes about governance to the onlooker. In Cambodia and in India corruption is prohibited by law. But the law does not function.

Yet Cambodia is far different from India. In India a person can at least protest against the government, which a Cambodian cannot, given the total prohibition on public protests there.

The government of Cambodia can suppress its citizens' rights to any extent. This has not been challenged, as there is no space to do so within the legal framework and the way law is practiced in Cambodia as of today'.
So, hardly a high note to end on. While in Cambodia the government is in election gear, not much can be expected from any safety measures implementation, no pain no gain. And if you want a vote inflicting the pain part of the equation is not called for. The crossroads on Sihanouk and Street 63 are a good example. Despite all the hot air about how the traffic police would change, we see the police hanging around on their mopeds, looking to cash in on any hapless soul driving the wrong way down a one-way street. Behind their backs countless mopeds and cars ignore the red lights leading to standstill and danger. Not their concern!

Tuesday, October 23, 2007

New look?

Phnom Penh's second (?) biggest roundabout, the Independence monument is partially unveiled to reveal it's new 'Waterfestival of 2007' or 'Elections 2008' look.They've added a lot of fountains.

Monday, October 22, 2007

Chasing Cars Cambodian style, 22-20-2007

  • Cargo plane on it's way from Phnom Penh to Singapore crashes after being hit by lightning. Manages to crash land in dark and escape mostly unscathed. Main problem in the aftermath is protecting the plane (and cargo) from being dismantled by the locals.
  • More accidents waiting to happen, but this time on rails. The state of Cambodian railroads is such that:
    'the RCC [= RRC, Royal Railroad of Cambodia] has two new Chinese carriages, but it doesn't want to use them because they're afraid they'll derail and be ruined, ... '.
    That's a quote from an ADB consultant who hopes some hapless soul will want to throw money at the railroad. Any potential investor needs 30-40 million plus whatever extra required to grease the wheels.'
  • And tallying the accidents that happened. The P'chum Ben holidays were not so bad apparently: 36 deaths, a couple of hundred wounded. A decline (in averages) in comparison to last year. Now how's that explained?
  • Advice from the Soria Moria:
    'Be aware that traffic accidents are not uncommon in the somewhat chaotic traffic of Cambodia, and car taxi is the safest way of moving around. As an alternative, a tuk-tuk is safer than riding with a mototaxi. For those who choose to rent a motorcycle and drive yourselves (not possible in Siem Reap), be forewarned about the traffic, and be cautious! Always use a helmet. As in any country accidents do happen, but there is no need to worry unnecessarily'.
  • A road from Angkor Wat to Prear Vihear? What about the roads to both?

Tuesday, October 16, 2007

Chasing Cars Cambodian style, 17-10-2007

  • How many people are allowed on a motorbike? Quite a lot. Khmer news reports of a motorcycle crashing at night into a parked lorry: 3 dead, 1 injured.
  • River transport mishap: ferry catches fire and consequently the captain gets praise from Khmer police.
  • Lacking proper police enforcing agents apparently, does not rule out society taking the law into the own hands. The new weapon: scouts! As witnessed and in this article, traffic on Norodom Avenue (the most elegant throughfare in Phnom Penh) scouts now flag when the light is red and ensure traffic keeps the zebra's free.
    'The students said most of the drivers respected the traffic law, but some high ranking officials and public servants - and foreigners - were difficult to deal with."The cars that drove fast and crossed the line mostly had RCAF [army] plates," said Lim Tek Hour. "The foreigners driving embassy cars were even worse," he said'.
    Despite these ordinary observations, they were also confronted with this:
    "When I asked a man to fasten his seatbelt, he took off his pants belt and said 'yes, this is my seatbelt'," said Ny Vy Sona, an 11th grade student from Sisowath High School who ...'.
    The article ends with the note that the students get paid to do this, $2 per day, nearly better than the traffic police themselves!
  • Last week was P'chum Ben an official excuse to vacate the city leading to traffic jams in and out the city. The Cambodia Daily (16-10-2007) quotes the Cambodian Tourism Minister:
    ' "I have never heard of someone waiting for six hours" '.
    after being asked to comment on the situation on the main road from Saigon to Phnom Penh where a ferry is needed to catch and the waiting time was six hours.
  • Getting away was also a pain. Cambodia Daily (october 11, 2007) reported that prices went up by 50%. taxi drivers make a killing apparently, up to five time their normal takings.
  • Finally the sad news: killer cow gets butchered by its owner!

Putting law into practice: a first?

Finally the new traffic law seems to be kicking in, that is if you believe the Associated Press original article. Not only that, it's turned out to be world news:

UK's The Sun:
'Cow in custody for killing six'
Japan's Mainichi:
'Cambodian cow in police custody for killing motorists'
The same caption from US AOL:
'Cambodian cow in police custody for killing motorists'
So how now, brown cow? Sorry it was a 'white' cow. The referred to incident:
'A Cambodian cow was taken into police custody for causing traffic accidents that resulted in the deaths of at least six people this year, a police official said Tuesday. The cow's owner could also face a six-month prison term under a new traffic law that holds people responsible for accidents caused by their animals, said Pin Doman, a police chief on the outskirts of Cambodia's capital, Phnom Penh'.
Well, well, indeed. The trouble is that the law is not being enforced, partially because the politicians who cobbled it together and gave their blessing to it, had no idea what was in it! Unfortunately, this unique fact (new traffic law being enforced finally) is a non-fact; cows can not be arrested under the new law. There's no provision for that.

As the accident(s) happened at night:
'The white, 1.5-meter (5-foot) tall cow was standing in the middle of a main road Monday night when a 66-year-old motorcyclist crashed into the animal and died. Most Cambodian roads are dark at night [most roads anywhere are dark at night full stop!].'
The law would have required the following (Art. 34, no 2):
'At night or daytime, if cannot see well, animal herders have to hold white light in front and red light in the back'.
It is unclear if this applies to the herder or to the cow. And what the penalty could be. But either way it seems the cow was in violation of the new traffic law. Welcome to the team, Crossing Cambodia says, as every single person in Cambodia is in violation of this law: it's simply not enforceable.

Well, if this feat (killing one motorcyclist) seems incredulous the article adds:
'Earlier this year, the same cow was responsible for another traffic accident that resulted in the death of five people and several injuries, when a truck veered off the road and crashed as its driver tried to avoid the animal.'
There are actually so many angles on this story, let's start by a anonymous comment over on KI Media:
'Other domesticated animals to watch out for on the roads include dog, chicken, buffalo, pig, duck, and cat. I have a friend whose car ran over a small pig crossing the road some time ago. He was stopped by the police and forced to pay $50 compensation to the pig owner. Had it been a big pig his car would have overturned and he may have been killed or injured. However, that was not their understanding on what the public roads are used for'.
That was probably before the new traffic law , ....

James Sok on applauds the efforts of Cambodia's finest:
'This is an evidence of good law enforcement in Cambodia. This proves the critics of Cambodian police wrong. Cambodian police does its job very properly according to the law and regulation.

It is not an easy task to arrest a cow like this. Imagine, Cambodian police officers do not have special equipment to handle such arrest. However, police department under effective command of His Excellency Commissioner General of the National Police does a very good job.

Quite right, but as said the police are not enforcing the law just bringing their own view of things into practice.

The original article was from October the ninth. Cambodia Daily (12-10-2007) got into this piece of World Breaking News. They use the caption:
'Detained Cow Is a Repeat Traffic-Law Offender'.
The Cambodia Daily adds, that the driver who crashed was
'a drunk motorcyclist'.
The police chiefs name is
Doman, not Pin. The prior accident resulted in
'three deaths'
not five. The first time around the owner's were let off. The cow only
'suffered minor injuries [that's good news!]'.

Understandingly (at least in Cambodia) the cow is gaining some cult following. As Cambodia's past shows killers can be popular and revered. The owner:
'reveres the cow and believes it to be the cause of good fortune in business'.
Let's hope he means in the long term; the cow is now not under 'arrest' anymore but has been confiscated after
'the family of the victim refused the first offer of $125'.
A second compensation offer is in the pipeline. Finally, the cow is
'somewhat of a celebrity in the village'.
Despite all this nonsense it ultimately points out how utterly incompetent the Cambodian law enforcement is being carried out. Perfectly sensible measures aimed at the entire nation's population's safety are disrespected; but beware if you are an opposition party or an open critic of Cambodia's regime, law enforcement will catch up with you even before you know you are astray of any law.

Well, that's Cambodia

Wednesday, October 03, 2007

Chasing Cars Cambodian Style, 5 October 2007

  • For those of you on the look-out, all tire deflating robbers have been busted! DPA via KI Media:
    ' ... the men have admitted to four robberies on well-heeled bank customers who had driven to their branches to withdraw cash, which had netted them a total of 97,500 dollars.

    When we asked them why they pulled so many robberies so quickly, they said they had only been able to obtain a five-day visa and they didn't want to overstay,' [Police lieutenant colonel] Ngy said'.
    Lucky they did not get a two weeks visum or a business visa!

  • Kampong Thom province are also adding up, Khmer News reports:
    '92 Die, 427 Injured in Kampong Thom in Nine Months'
    'They drive motorcycles too fast, drive with drunkenness, or drivers are not tolerant'.
  • In Koh Kong they are also waking to the deal with the new traffic law. A public meeting with the following message:
    'Ly Sareth, Koh Kong public work chief office said that the new traffic regulation consists of 12 chapters and 95 articles which has taken effect and started since 1 September. He added that 95% of offices has no driving license including taxi drivers'.
    Thanx to Khmer News

  • More on the thieves: the AK-47 bandits. The ringleader of this notorious gang has been arrested, his accomplices are still on the run. With their guns they rob motorcyclists of their motor's. What for?
    'After the sale of their loot, they would party, drink, and have pleasure with women, until they depleted their income before restarting the robbery cycle again'.
    Did I mention that the weapons have also not been recovered?

  • In Vietnam a law on wearing helmets is set to be enforced from the 15th of December.
    'Vietnam has one of the world's highest traffic fatality rates, with nearly 13,000 deaths recorded last year alone - the majority involving the ubiquitous motorbike. Few people bother with helmets, saying they are hot, bulky and unfashionable. But as of Dec. 15, everyone will be required to don the so-called 'rice cookers' as the government enforces a new law intended to save lives.'

    The article is much publicized originating from AP. Fines will amount to roughly a dollar.
    'Helmets must also be certified with a stamp verifying they meet Vietnam's safety standard'.

    An eye-opener for the Khmer law enforcers?

  • The cost of enforcing? 57,000 riels or a little more than 14 dollars US.
    'The ministry of public works and transport has set the price for motorcycle driving lessons at all private driving school and departments of public works in all province and municipalities to 57,000 riels (~$14.25) only'.
    The statistics:
    Currently, in Phnom Penh city, there are about ½ million motorcycles, but only about 10,000 motorcycle drivers have legal driver license.
  • Finally, the poor moto drivers ('yes?') get a political treat curiosity of SRP. Sam Rainsy's claims to fame?
    ' ..., if his party were to win the election, and if he were to become the prime minister, he will lower the price of gasoline to about 3,000 riels (~$0.75) per liter. He also recalled that when he was the economy and finance minister, he was able to prevent the rise of the price of the US dollar, and he was able to lower the price of gasoline to 600 riels per liter only'.
    Single handily preventing the rise of the US dollar? On the new traffic law:
    'After criticizing the driver license issue, Sam Rainsy said that in order to let the people know about the traffic law, there is no need for them to attend schools, educational paperwork could be distributed to people so they can learn about the traffic law on their own at home'.
    CPP criticism:
    'The distribution of noodle is an attempt to garner votes for the upcoming 2008 election'.
    The full article from is available at KI Media

Friday, September 28, 2007

International Press

Yesterday's Bangkok Post (September 27, 2007) includes the weekly Horizons travel section. Included in it are a lot of promotional reportage's about either boring places or places where no one has ever (wanted ?) to venture. That aside there is the excellent Traveller's Tales, the weekly column by Don Ross who tries to expose Thai travel rip-offs as well as those perpetrated by airlines.

This week, Don is fixing his sights on Cambodia's national highways 5 and 6, arguably some of the worst stretches of road you'll encounter, while sticking to national highways in South East Asia. Crossing Cambodia has reported on this section of highway previously, on May 26, March 19, January 18 of this year as well as November 10, 2006. And the Tales of Asia site maintains up to date information on this stretch, so clearly something must be happening on this stretch of road.

Well, that's what's the problem, nothing seems to be happening. Despite this being the preferred and shortest route between Bangkok and Cambodia's number 1 attraction Angkor Wat. With the policies in place to attract tourists to Cambodia, one would suspect that upgrading this section of the national highway grid would be high on the agenda. PM Hun Sen, while using a short stretch of the highway on his way to inspect Cambodia's number 1 golf course, complained that it almost broke his back! That from someone who is used to breaking backs! Anyway he did not come with any immediate solutions, that's Cambodia's politics for you.

Well, Don does not come with any new revelations, simply because there are none. He does mention:
' ... drivers prepared to tackle the bone-jarring road.'

' ... you will ultimately end up in Siem Reap dreaming of a hot bath to wash off the layers of persistent red dust.'

' ... a hotchpotch of potholed and seriously damaged roads.'

'Highways five and six are literally falling apart.'

He then goes on to try to establish (an unproven?) link why airlines are interested in the non-improvement of these roads. Surprisingly in this, is that he does mention these interests and not discuss Bangkok Airways at the same time. Bangkok Airways, which has a monopoly on flights between Siem Reap and Bangkok.

All in all an interesting read, if not complete. And a way to plug a cycling holiday in South-East Asia!

Chasing Cars, 29 September, 2007

  • This week Burma is never far away. The played indignation of western nations, which have tolerated for too long an autocratic regime. But now the USA is coming down hard on the regime. Ms. Rice insists Burma give a visa to the UN special rapporteur! Hardly a threat, I would think. The Burma regime will have no rights to a visa for the US, as of now. 'Naughty boys all of you!' Anyway Cambodia's northern neighbour Laos has no such qualms, according to this link:
    'Than Shwe's family is on a visit to Laos, the source added'.
    They just flew there. One thing for sure, they're not there for the shopping!

  • Talking about shopping, China (the only 'true' friend of Burma) has saved Cambodia another shopping sortie. For motorbikes. An translated article reports that Cambodia is in line to receive 104 motorcycles. Yippee!
    'The Chinese ambassador stressed that, in the future, if Cambodia has other needs, China will provide them further'.
    Just in case Cambodia goes the Burma way, it's a great reassurance.

    The motorbikes will be called upon by the traffic police, to help them beat out the midday sun? Have you not noticed how traffic police in Phnom Penh have problems standing upright, they are always propping themselves up with assistance of a motorcycle.
    Anyway thanks China, how about doing something about the printing of receipts for traffic fines, they still have not surfaced?

  • Fellow blogger Cambodia maps has problems on his shopping sprees, the traffic on 174th-51st is apparently 'interesting'

  • Some shoppers are better off, though two Indonesians [?] are now less fortunate. They are the 'puncture car thieves': car goes to bank, draws from expenses account (> 10,000 $US), returns, tries to leave, bummer! Flat tyre! While inspecting, thieves access car and take off with cash, Robin Hood style. Unfortunately, only
    'only two of them were caught on Mao Tse Tung Blvd'.
    There were four. So next time you intend to draw a couple of grand from your local bank, beware!

  • More awareness required, but now for those unfortunate Lao. As if playing servant for their poor Burmese refugees (see above) is not enough, Lao authorities are drawing up a plan to ban tuk-tuks and jumbo's (a form of tuk-tuk, but with a larger motor, also known as a Skylab). Their offence?
    'Authorities see that these vehicles to some extent cause road accidents in the city, resulting in several deaths and injuries every month'.
    The Laoi authorities seek higher standards apparently:
    'We can all see that these vehicles are in poor condition. Some of them don't even have indicators, or front and back lights, ... '
    An expat quips the end is near, well sort of:
    'Tuk-tuks provide a form of service for which there is no substitute; it is one of the reasons I enjoy life in Laos, ...'
    How come in Cambodia the above practices are commonplace but authorities do not give a hoot?

  • From The Mirror a couple of older articles: Survival Priorities for Road Traffic. An editorial. On the (lack of?) of implemention of the new traffic law. It also provides the author with the opportunity to mention:
    'I use a motorcycle-taxi – a “moto” - every day on Street 51. The moto driver and I were almost killed, when a big dark Landcruiser without license plates, but with a driver in uniform, almost knocked us over, high speed, disregarding the STOP sign on a road crossing Street 51 from where he came'.
    A daily occurence. He then adds:
    'Road traffic in Phnom Penh is chaotic. And dangerous'.
    He (or is it a she?) then comes with the same suggestions placed elders on this site.
    Then from a couple days prior to this:
    'In Three Days, 9 People Died and 17 Were Injured in Traffic Accidents in Phnom Penh'
    Again it refers to the new traffic law. And the author's observations:
    ' ... and what I have observed myself:
    1. New luxury cars without license plates - if they create an accident and they speed away, nobody can identify them – pass regularly in front of the traffic police without being intercepted, while several police talk down on people – judging from their clothes probably people from the countryside or young women – who came on small motorbikes.
    2. Government vehicles are supposed to be used for official duty; will traffic police be able to stop and report a big Landcruiser with a military number plate on a weekend, in which half a dozen beautifully dressed young ladies are being transported somewhere?'
    Gone shopping probably.
    'Nowadays, police may be afraid to report a “powerful vehicle” belonging to a “powerful institution.” Without a change in this power game, it is difficult to see how the necessary improvement of road traffic in Cambodia can be achieved, and how it will work.'

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