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!
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