Crossing Cambodia

Saturday, April 21, 2007

Balancing the Khmer New year Celebrations

With Khmer New Year finally behind us, there is a flurry of reports on how well the New Year went, or not as it happens, accident wise that is. Friday's (20-04-2007) Cambodia Daily reported that the preliminary data report one less death than last year, 54 in total. However these data, are based on police reports; apparently there are additional non-police reported deaths which are added to above data compiled from hospital records. This does however reflect poorly on the traffic police's work; if they can not even be entrusted to compile reports on accidents whereby death results, what is their use?

In spite of the mention made in the Cambodia Daily of 14 April 2007, whereby 'even' the municipal traffic police chief spent time directing traffic out of town (Phnom Penh is deserted during Khmer New Year), during the festive period traffic police were largely absent, so how do this reflect on the Road Safety Week? Well, as stated two weeks back here in Crossing Cambodia the Road Safety Week was the week before Khmer New Year, not including the celebration days. The police need a day or two/three off.

Anyway yesterday in Mondulkiri Crossing Cambodia witnessed the traffic police back in business: manning a corner at the entrance to the province's only one-way street and lecturing the unfortunate who stop and accepting their contribution to their (traffic polices') good cause. A military motorcyclist in uniform and with machine gun slung on his back (was Vietnam immenently going to invade?) simply ignored the traffic police. There is a hierarchy in Cambodia.

Over in Lao the same celebrations have resulted in less deaths, 17 deaths versus 32 in 2006. How come?
' “The reduction in this year's accident rate is because the police force in all provinces has been inspecting all major routes, checking speeding, drink driving and the wearing of helmets. So this year, the accidents have mostly occurred on urban roads,” Captain Bounthan (Deputy Head of the Office of the Traffic Police Department) said.

"The police worked 24 hours throughout the weekend", he added.

"The cause of accidents was mainly drivers drinking and not obeying traffic regulations", he said'.
Thanx to the Vientiane Times for their good tidings. Can Cambodia learn from Lao? Clearly there is something to be said for having more police during the days rather than less.

The same (more police police required to ensure road safety) seems to have been on the cards in Thailand. Despite the six days of Thai New Year leaving 318 dead and 4,100 injured, the police were out in force:
'In the six days (April 11-16), 2.4 million vehicles were stopped at checkpoints nation-wide and 41,696 motorists found to have breached traffic laws. Most failed to present driver's licences, wear helmets or seatbelts'.
Do the same in Cambodia, 99.9% will not have a license, 99.9 will not have helmets (compulsory in Thailand) and 99.9% will not be wearing seatbelts. In spite of all the trouble the Thai went to, it only resulted in slightly less deaths (-10%) and a few more injured. Worth it?

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