Crossing Cambodia

Tuesday, August 28, 2007

Nailed them!

Despite Cambodia's policeforce reputation for, amongst others sleeping on the job, Cambodia Daily (27 August 2007) reports on a henious crime: that of wontonly distributing nails on one of Phnom Pneh's busiest cross roads, with the sole intent of having a near-monopoly on the resulting puncture repair business. From KI Media, though they give dpa credit, but Crossing Cambodia is sure it's from the Cambodian Daily ....:
Enterprising tire repairmen sent to jail for trying to earn some extra cash
Phnom Penh - A pair of enterprising Cambodian tire repairmen were in jail Monday on charges that they spiced up business by lacing roads around their roadside repair stalls with nails. Chamcarmon district police in the capital of Phnom Penh said they detained Khy Pros, 21, and So Mom, 26, both of whom made a living from fixing flat tires on the roadside, on August 17 after a senior government official's car was stopped in its tracks by a suspicious quantity of nails on the road.

Upon a investigation, police allege Pros was found to be carrying half a kilogram of nails and Mom 3.5 kilograms of nails.

Both men were remanded in custody to face charges of vandalism and disrupting public order by Phnom Penh Municipal Court are now serving up to six months in Prey Sar jail awaiting trial, court officials said Monday.
If convicted, the hapless entrepreneurs face up to five years each in prison.

You see, five years! It makes you wonder how many years you would get if you were with the Khmer Rouge and found guilty. ...? Oh, that's right, you are still free. Oops, sorry.

Tuesday, August 21, 2007

Dreaming ...

With the absence of any form of regulated public transport in Phnom Penh, one would expect that when a private company announces it's silly enough to invest half a billion dollars in a complete new system of public transport, it would be welcomed with open arms. However, in Cambodia not all is as it seems. The reader need only look at the previous posting. Metered taxi's? Great idea, but please overcharge your customers, otherwise our system of inflating basic daily needs will break down.

A Thai company wants to replicate it's Skytrain business of Bangkok in Phnom Penh. Clean, efficient, a bit pricey (that's a plus point for Cambodian authorities) and easy. Hard not to want a Skytrain. Especially as widening Monivong Boulevard any more looks limited. But a deputy governor (of what?) argues that the plan is too ahead of time! He's quite right there, buses and trams as city transport still have yet to arrive here. Horse drawn carriages? Tin cans of sardines on wheels? Bicycle - dops?

Well, he's entitled to an opinion, however he must realize that in combatting congestion what may seem too soon, can be too late and what may seem as inappropriate may just what the doctor describes! Here's a link to expanding rickshaw services in New York! Or as the blog say they are too successful, so the authorities are going to restrict there numbers...

Thursday, August 16, 2007

Are you paying too much?

An often debated argument is that of whether in Cambodia are you paying too much for the services on offer or not. In Cambodia there is no one answer, the ignorant get fleeced (but still believe they have a bargain), the cautious get a better deal while the locals will usually get rock-bottom prices on the assumption that the service deliverer should share some of his well-earned fleeced gains. This of course results in considerable paranoia among tourists and local expats alike, the only difference in that the expats know they are paying too much but are resigned to this, their destiny.

Where's this leading us to?

Today's (August 16, 2007) Cambodia Daily mentions that:
'Phnom Penh now has what most cities take for granted: a metered taxi service'.
Shock and awe! Well, not really as the service consists of 11 green sedans, hardly set to make a dent on the transportation services on offer in Phnom Penh. But the odd thing is their pricing. They will charge a flat fee of US$ 1,50 for the first 2 km traveled. The article then quotes Marc Vanhemelryeck, who (used to?) owns Taxi Vantha which started services in 1996. However they stopped using the meters as the inflation back then led to recalibrations which
'... became too much hassle'.
The article then quotes:
'"Metered taxis are a good thing to have in the city, but a competitive service won't be able to cover costs", he said'.
But the Cambodian Daily then seeks to oppose Mr. Marc by bringing tuk-tuk drivers in the argument:
'"If they charge customers only US $ 1,50 for the first 2 km, it will kill our business", Ouk Kim Heng [tuk-tuk driver] said Wednesday'.
Either that or the tuk-tuk drivers follow the prices set by the taxi company, that's how most things work in the real world. But Cambodia is not the real world.
The director-general of the Ministry of Public Works and Transport's General Directorate of Transport said:
'... price of taxi's should be set higher than their competition'.
Logic? This way they of course would never make money. And as if this piece of advice is not enough he then continues by
'... adding that he will suggest price-setting to Phnom Penh Municipality officials as a remedy to the problem'.
So now the government is officially encouraging tuk-tuk drivers as well as the new taxi service to overcharge? What happened to consumer power? Or protection of consumers of extortion practices?

In Bangkok the taxi's charge 30-35 Bt for the first 2 km, which is around 1 $ US ; in Ho Chi Minh city they are around 12000 dong for the first 2 km, which is less than 1 $ US. In Singapore 2 $ Singapore for the first km (=1,20 $ US) and Kuala Lumpur the first 2 kms would set you back 2 Ringit (0,57 $ US).

Conclusion: Cambodia's not a country for cheap skates and is increasingly looking more like Singapore (sic).

Are you paying too much?

Wednesday, August 08, 2007


Despite the promise of a new version, another entry on the 'old' version. It's addictive!

Well, as with most of expat Phnom Penh, the last weekend marked the re-entry to Phnom Penh. So what has changed?
  • Hardly anything. The roads are getting busier (for a Saturday), but also seem to be more chaotic. Phnom Penh Post (July 27- August 9) adds:
    '... in 2006 total registered vehicles rose 25% ...'
    '... Phnom Penh's streets struggle to cope with the increased traffic.'

  • The new traffic law seems still to be in the pipeline, should surface in September apparently.

  • The local government's answer to traffic congestion still seems to be to widen the roads, this time on Monivong. When will they realize that more assertiveness is needed (on f.i. avoiding traffic jams due to drivers ignoring traffic lights, drivers who drive the wrong way and/or wrong side)? When it's too late? When the roads can't be widened any more?

  • Drunken driving is still 'business as usual', witness a crash two weeks back on Norodom when two young lads died after they crashed into an on-coming Toyota Landcruiser(?) because they were steering with their legs!(Cambodian Daily, 30 July 2007)

  • The simple possesion of a motorcycle still leads to deadly encounters with robbers witness the various entries on Phnom Penh Post's Police Blogger. According to the latest version, women are getting into the act ... :
    'Sokdom said a woman stole his motorbike [after victim had been drugged with sleeping pills in anticaption of 'sex after having drunk beer together']'.
    Is this progress?

  • Not only is road traffic unsafe, the same applies to air traffic. A pilot flying from Siem Reap to Sihanoukville received the request to move to a higher altitude. His answer:
    'It's no problem, I am familiar with this area'.
    After that he became a little more than familiar with the area, so did his Korean passengers. This all resulted in some graphic material, which found itself with adequate buyers on the local market. Ban it!

  • For those of you who prefer to stay on the ground, at Khmer 440 there is an article on public transport in Cambodia.

  • Military police get caught in traffic incident between Chinese businessmen (with armed guards) and Austrailan tourists. What to do? Get lost? (Cambodian Daily 19 July 2007).
Quite often Crossing Cambodia has used the words seems and apparently in this blog entry. Time for a reality check?
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