Crossing Cambodia

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Chasing Cars Cambodian Style, 17 December 2008

My last posting before all Cambodia motorcyclists are supposed to become helmet clad. Or not.
  • WHO in Vietnam claim that the compulsory helmets have saved
    '... more than 1,000 lives since it was introduced a year ago'.
    Which is more than 10% and has reversed increasing of traffic fatalities. Show's to some extent that the Vietnamese government take protecting their own serious.

    This contrasts with the situation here, where helmets have been compulsory for nearly two years but the traffic police are not enforcing. They have announced to implement the law as of Jan. 1, though we have heard that often before.
  • But it's not only helmets that worries Cambodian authorities:
    'Of the more than 800,000 motorbikes registered in Cambodia, only 14,000 driver's licences have been issued since the enforcement of traffic laws in 2007, according to transport officials, who are resorting to new tactics to increase knowledge of the Kingdom's road rules'.
    That's nearly 2%! Or in other words 98% have no license. New tactics however seem to be the same as ever:
    '... giving lessons on traffic law [at selected number of high schools in Phnom Penh]'.
    What about enforcing the measures? The above mentioned article on helmets in Vietnam mentions fines of 12$!
  • Other worries:
    'The skies over Dangkor district [of Phnom Penh] will be free of kites following an announcement by aviation authorities Thursday that kite-flying posed a risk to airplane safety and would henceforth be banned in the area'.
    Though a general international rule, CC doubts whether the skies will be truly free, a ban needs to be enforced. And how to ban? New tactics?
    'Most of the kite flyers are aged between 10 and 14 years old, and if we cannot educate them, then we will have to educate their parents'.

  • Then real worries or not? The link refers to a forum on the Tales of Asia concerning disembarking from the boot on the Phnom Penh - Siem Reap stretch. Two persons fell in the water with luggage. Damages are not paid:
    'Yes, they [the boat companies] are insured but the insurance stops when the boat engines are cut...'.
    'My concluding recommendation is to avoid selling this boat trip.
    Not only is it dangerous but it’s a completely overhyped tourist trap.
    1. Most of the trip (4 out of 5 hours) is on the Tonle Sap Lake, meaning there is nothing to see but lake water.
    2. The boat is quite crowded with very narrow seats and luggage is placed in the aisle.
    3. There are no stops on the way, no refreshments or snacks are offered.
    4. It’s comparatively expensive.
    Instead the bus should be recommended'.
  • The same site also has a recent mention of the road to Siem Reap from the Thai border.
    'Fun at the best of times after seven days of continuous rain the way now looked prime. Ships in a storm seldom roll so furiously. I gripped the seat in front with fingers, toes and even kneecaps. My head begged my neck to let it smash itself through the glass window. Nineteen people from eight different countries abruptly had nothing to say, in part for fear of severing one’s own tongue.
    Driving 150 kilometres from the border of Thailand we arrived at our destination over nine hours later'.

    The Cambodia Daily though reported last week how tourists were being 'kidnapped' by rivalry between competing transport companies in Poipet, a great place ... to leave.
  • Is this a worry for Cambodian's roads?
    'Sam An, 43, who runs a private automobile dealership on Phnom Penh's Monivong Boulevard, said his sales have declined by up to 50 percent over the last six months from a peak during the building boom of 2006, 2007 and the early part of 2008'.

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Chasing Cars, Cambo style, 10 December 2008

Much to mention so to see, but in reality?
  • The stuff dreams are made of. Elevated rail. Elevated roadways. That's the answer of growing traffic congestion according to the government. We could have these be as early as eight years from now,
    'but project lacks money [yours for 300 million $] and must look to donors, private sector for funds'.
    And they are not forthcoming. That sucks.
    But is it a real answer? The opposition think not:
    '"I think the sky train project is not a priority. The government should focus on rural infrastructure," said Mu Sochua, deputy secretary general of the opposition Sam Rainsy Party'.
    There's some value in that. Even high ranking officials are skeptical:
    "If [it] materialises, it could make only a small change in congestion due to the fact that are more vehicles on the roads and there is ignorance of traffic laws," said Phnom Penh Traffic Police Chief Tin Prasoeur'.
    Growth of vehicles according citations in this Phnom Penh Post
    article has been phenomenal, a tripling in the last few years.
    Indeed a single rail link won't change much. And in the meantime there still is a lot of growth to deal with. So maybe what's required is a multi-track approach.
    Gridlock in Phnom Penh is partially due to non-adherence to traffic rules: driving the wrong way down one-way streets, ignoring traffic lights, haphazard parking, poor awareness of users to proper way of driving (taking left lane and then turning right is one that springs to mind). At the same time those concerned with enforcing the rules are not at all interested.
    Then there is poor planning. For instance north-south routes are lacking and one of these (Monivong) is currently being dug up. The alternative for this road (Street 63) is now also out of bounds as the great traffic roundabout that is the Central Market, is being used for market enhancements. That means that from south to north there is gridlock during rush hour.
    Furthermore there is no intermediate planning. Especially the Russian Boulevard could profit from fly-overs, thereby easing east-west traffic and forming less of barrier to North-South traffic. Other enhancements could be where Monireth crosses the Ring Road and where the (northern and eastern) bridges enter the city basically dropping all mayhem on the roundabouts at the foot of the bridges. Real city buses is also an idea, excluding certain vehicles from the city center.
    But could we expect a real plan?
  • More dreams, the PM still wants a national airline.
    But didn't Cambodia just sign all kinds of agreements with an Indonesian company to do so? What happened to the deal? Has it been shelved (as was expected).
    Wanting something doesn't always mean you gone get it. The future of airlines seems to be one with over-capacity, much to the delight of passengers. Now (as was 6 months ago) the wrong time to spread your wings.
    Possibly the government should focus it's air policy elsewhere, having no national airline means that other airlines may wish to start up new routes, if only to off-set poor loading factors and getting a one-up on the competition. The Lao for instance are inviting all and sun-dry to set up a route from Hong Kong to Vietiane.
    The authorities could also focus on the air safety regulations which with the recent Siem Reap Airways flop could encourage outsiders to fly within Cambodia.
  • The air industry in Cambodia is set to be enhanced, not by the PM but by the owner of Cambodia's main airports (SCA). A long interview with the prez of the company in Ka-set. On Sihanoukville:
    'We just have to attract airline companies, now ....
    If airline companies think there is a market there, they will come with their planes. The critical part is to build up the image of Sihanoukville, promote the destination and turn it into a more attractive place, particularly with the development of hotel infrastructures.'
    Don't hold your breath.
  • Had an accident? Just call 119, which connects you with Phnom Penh's least worst government hospital Calmette. This article on KI Media (originally from VOA) gives you some insight in Cambodia's new decrees concerning picking up traffic victims. The reasoning behind the new regulations:
    'For the safety of victims and avoiding the anarchic activities of grabbing customers, the ministry banned private clinics from sending their ambulances to take victims of accidents'.
    'The majority [of the clinics] have abided the directive'

    Which seems somehow of a reassurance. But the original decree referred to
    'promote a public ambulance service'
    But what is a public service? This comment on aforementioned link:
    'This directive creates more problem for the public because Calmet's ambulance staff are all corrupt. I am one of the victims of 119. Let me tell you the story. One of my foreign customer had heart attack in my shop. she fell down on the floor. Then, I call 119 of Calmet's hospital. They arrived 5 minutes later. However, what surprised me, you guess? They asked me (the owner of the shop) for $50 without negotiation. I had no choice because the condition of the patient is very critical. Unfortunately, her husband told me that she was dead on the way to hospital'.
  • More dreams:
    'The Ministry of Public Works and Transport said that so far, the restoration and repair of the two railroad lines from Phnom Penh to Sihanoukville and from Phnom Penh to the Poipet border crossing with Thailand, ‘has not achieved any noticeable results, and the action is very slow.’
    The article continues to highlight all the features of Cambodia's rail upgrade, which has been contracted to take part in under two years.
  • License plate news:
    'The National Assembly issued a notice to the Minister of Public Works and Transport, Mr. Tram Iv Tek, on 4 December 2008, saying that the National Assembly allows the Ministry of Public work and Transport to take action to monitor and to seize number plates of private vehicles that use police and RCAF number plates'.
    Funny that, an article in the Cambodia Daily in February this year states that
    'Ministry of Public Works and Transport has now ordered all state, police and army license plates on private vehicles to be replaced with civilian plates by March 1'.
    So now the parliament is (belatedly) ordering the ministry around to do something which obviously they not so good in.
    'Police and RCAF number plates are often put on luxurious cars belonging to private individuals, and they are being driven everywhere and against many regulations, and with no respect for the law'.
  • Finally more on the road to Bokor. Here's Andy fuming:
    'We got it for $30 each, but it's still a rip-off! The Toyota wagon had 11 tourists on board, a driver and a guide. Nine of us held on tightly on the back of the pick-up for one of the most uncomfortable rides of my life, and I've had a few in Cambodia over the years. The road is being repaired, renovated, call it what you will but so far the Sokha Group, who have taken over the mountain as their own private playground for the foreseeable future, have done lots of preparatory work but practically none of the 30-odd kms up the mountain is anywhere near finished. I reckon it'll be years before it is. They've widened the road in places and it bodes well for the future, but that's a long way off and today, its a bumpy, rutted, pot-holed mess'.

Tuesday, December 02, 2008

Chasing Cars, Cambodian Style, December 2 2008

Despite the previous post, one would be surprised to see the ongoing reporting is still ... ongoing.

Major items this time round are of course the total chaos in Bangkok, at least this is not to be seen in any of the other Southeast Asian countries. The question is it due to the relative lack of democracy or because of the lack real democratic freedom that this can happen?
  • Another hot traffic item has been the suspension of Siem Reap Airways by the Cambodian authorities; who said that they dare not take their responsibilities serious?
    'The government has slapped a temporary flight ban on domestic carrier Siem Reap Airways amid concerns over its safety standards'.
    Well, not completely true. It's the EU who pointed out the flaws and whom's report has lead to this belated action.
    But in the mean time the Cambodian authorities ignorance has consequences:
    'Ho Vandy, president of the Cambodia Association for Travel Agents, said the ban was bad for the image of Cambodian air service'.
    Luckily, there is hardly an image for the Cambodian air service, as there is beyond this airline none other!
  • Despite there not being a economic recession here, both motorbike sales as well as cars sales are plummeting.
    'Local motorbike dealers report slower sales as the falling property market and declines in foreign investment hit consumer spending at home'
    'Sales of Toyota vehicles, among the most popular in Cambodia, have plummeted almost 50 percent since May, according to Kong Nuon, president of Cambodia's only Toyota distributor TTHK Co Ltd.

    "The real estate recession is the main cause for the sales decline because people are not earning extra cash from land sales," he said Monday. "Demand for cars has declined a lot."'
    As the real estate boom was fueled by foreign (Korean) funding, the end is near: prices are declining and sales are not taking place. So Cambodian roads might just well be more peaceful ...
  • Road updates from Khmer 440 forum: Bokor mountain near Kampot:
    'Sunday night and we just got back from there. We tried a $100 "donation" and still couldn't get through. We were told (I think) that there are not even tours going up any more'.
    Sihanoukville, getting around:
    'Will I have problems in Snooky riding a bike hired in PP and carrying International Driving Permit? No problems riding in Snooky at the moment. Saved a fortune in motop fares - those guys are taking the piss'.
  • From blog-o-sphere: Firststopcambodia gives some great insights into the dealings with moto's:
    'This is pretty much exactly what he said while ignoring the red lights on Mao Tse-tung Blvd:
    “ I want to kill myself, because I don’t have a girlfriend, but I love you…"'.
    On corruption:
    'Is the lack of a receipt or a record enough to call something corruption?
    Granted, the money you give to the police officer won’t go to the state or be used for some public good but then again if you think about it as my motodop did it is the same as paying a fine'.
    On Hummers:
    'I’ve only seen black Hummers so maybe it is just this one jerk driving around all day making life miserable for half of Phnom Penh, if that is the case I wouldn’t mind bumping into him and give him a good verbal beating. But Isabelle tells me that is a bad idea unless you are keen on getting shot'.
    driving with your moto Khmer lady style:
    'I had a large group of tuk-tuk drivers and motodops laughing and pointing at me'.

Thursday, November 27, 2008

Synopsis II

As Crossing Cambodia starts in it’s 3rd year of reporting on Cambodia’s traffic situation (and over 7,000 visitors), a brief resume is not out of place.

The first year, this site stated that Cambodia’s traffic is pure anarchy / chaos which was backed-up by many similar reports both on Cambodia’s own situation as well as comparisons with neighbouring countries.

If anything this reign of chaos and anarchy has strengthened. The difference being that increased numbers of vehicles have lead to more chaos. Is it disregard to other road users, ignorance or simple evil that fuels this process?

Part of the problem lies in the fact that Cambodia traffic police are reluctant to get involved. Relegated to the sidelines (literally) they have no compulsion to take action; content with the odd campaign to fine the unfortunate few and rely on a steady stream of ‘voluntary’ contributions dished out by trucks, which are barred from the city for a great part of the day.

The past year has seen little change, though many encouraging voices of how the future will change. Though positive, the future itself will tell whether or not this will happen. And based on the past, we may well already know the answer.

With the increase of traffic, death rates have also increased substantially. With over 80% dying from head related injuries, one would expect that authorities are taking helmet wearing compliance as a serious issue. Though much has been noted in the lip-service on this issue, in reality, the past year helmet wearing has come no closer than it was previously. Possibly it is all the more posturing such as to keep NGO’s happy rather than showing any interest in the safety of it’s own citizens. Especially in the light of how neighbouring countries have been able to successfully implement helmet wearing.

Despite a traffic law being accepted absolutely no aspects of the law are being implemented, i.e. it is totally ignored. Which is sort of a symbol of total apathy.
Other traffic aspects are totally disregarded, the last year has seen the vision of Cambodian authorities: more traffic lights. However any future vision is void; wait until total deadlock / mayhem and then react, seems to be the future. Even in Vietiane, Lao they are studying light rail options to assist city movement, recognizing that private options (though suitable/preferable) are in the end, deemed to increase deadlock and thereby contribute to economic damage.

Last year’s synopsis didn’t end on a high note, nor will this years. Pathetic seems to be a best description of traffic in Cambodia. Can it get any worse?

Thursday, November 20, 2008

Challenge Nora: Crash Course

Can't withhold CC's readers of this article from last months AsiaLIFE by Nora Lindstrom:
In driving school in Finland you learn how to hit moose and drive on ice, while in Wales instructors keep a strict eye on applying the handbrake when stopping. In Cambodia you learn - well, that's the question really, what do you learn?

As the rain pours and lightning rips from the sky, I sit behind the wheel of a beaten up Toyota Camry with my instructor Seng An for my first Khmer driving lesson. I'm terrified. During my hour's wait for him to turn up, a fellow student has explained how he can drive perfectly well, it's just that passing the test is so difficult, because you need to remember all the rules that you will never use. It's a promising start.

Seng An has been a driving instructor for 13 years and comments upon what a strong woman I am. Apparently most Khmer women prefer automatic cars, as using the clutch is too difficult. I guess it is in high heels, so have opted for trainers. I've been informed the speed limit in Phnom Penh is 40km per hour, rising to 90 as you leave town. Seng An claims it's 25 - perhaps he means miles? Regardless, getting beyond second gear in the rain, darkness and traffic jams during my hour's lesson proves a challenge and whenever I try, I nearly stall.

Five minutes into the lesson I'm hesitantly asked, if I know how to drive, and frankly, I'm starting to doubt that myself. For the next 55 minutes my instructor's main concern is keeping me from hitting the motos that come from left right and centre. It seems most fellow road-users were never told you are meant to drive on the right in Cambodia. Or perhaps it really is on the left? Seng An would surely have mentioned that. With highly limited visibility, I don't know where we're driving most of the time and have severe difficulty spotting anything smaller than an SUV. Maybe that's why they are so popular. Thankfully, my instructor has a second brake, and is swift in turning the wheel when I'm on a collision course, which is worryingly often.

I am urged to stop at red lights, but whenever I do, I brace myself for a hit from behind. Regardless of Seng An's theoretical rules, I know it's simply not derigeur to pay attention to that little red dot, making doing so more dangerous than not. Staying in lane seems of little consequence - not that the lines in the road are visible anyway. Stop signs are completely ignored. However, I am told to indicate at each turn - a lesson clearly lost on most drivers in Phnom Penh.

"Go, if you can, and if your car is bigger than the other guy's," seems to be the rough rule of thumb for right of way. Following this, many drivers appear to have developed a particular skill of driving right into the middle of a crossing and then stopping if they encounter a vehicle bigger than their own. It makes for beautiful traffic jams in all directions. Note that cars with army plates are by definition bigger than all others - hitting them means serious trouble. Perhaps best to avoid state cars too, but for the rest it's fair play.

All drivers in Cambodia are required to have a valid license, however learning to drive seldom involves more than 10 hours of lessons with all the theoretical knowledge you need compressed into 15-page leaflet. At Safety Driving School, such a course costs US$100 for foreigners and US$73 for Khmers. You can also get your own Khmer license for US$40, provided you have one from your home country already. A single lesson costs US$15.

At the end of my lesson Seng An seems satisfied and maintains I would pass a local driver's test with flying colours. He does nevertheless give me his phone number and tells me to call if I ever have any trouble from the traffic police - just in case. I quietly congratulate myself for not having killed anyone, but am rather annoyed I didn't get to honk my horn, learn how to cut-up moto's and bicycles, or find out how to disperse cows from the road - surely these skills are more essential to Khmer driving than indicating 25m before a turn? It seems what we need is a barang driving school teaching not the actual traffic rules, but the art of Khmer non-rules.

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

After the waterfestival: is there more traffic news? a.: Chasing Cars

With the Water festival now behind us, it's might pay to look into the headlines in traffic related news in Cambodia. But ..., nothing has changed. Nothing ever changes, that's the main problem with traffic in Cambodia. It was a chaotic & anarchic. It still is.
What about the smaller changes? What about them:
  • Possibly the biggest headline is the fact that a Cambodian company has been officially recognized by the EU. Siem Reap Airways has been blacklisted! No more flights to Europe for them.
    But what do they care? They only fly between Phnom Penh, Siem Reap, Bangkok and Hong Kong. So why worry indeed?
    ' "Siem Reap does not fly to Europe. Probably the [EC] was giving a warning beforehand, in case Siem Reap Airways planned to open service to Europe," said Him Sarun, chief of Cabinet for the Civil Aviation State Secretariat'.
    Probably. What this official forgets is that the EC (of the EU) doesn't draw up the list for the fun of it. Besides using legislation to prevent the companies on the list from entering the EU, it also signals to EU citizens (and to most world citizens) that the companies black-listed are to be avoided. Thanx for the info, EC.
    More worrying is that the EC mentions:
    ' ... the carrier [Siem Reap Airways] "does not operate in compliance" with Cambodian safety regulations'.
    So in spite of the reassurement by Cambodian officials, Cambodia is made a laughing stock. If the only company operating domestic flights can't even meet it's own guidelines! What are the officials going to do? Look into the matter or hand over more dough to CNN to launch another advertising campaign stressing how irresistible Angkor Wat is?
  • The law? A son of a general believed he could cause an accident and flee. For once he was unlucky:
    'However, because the accident he caused led to injuries to other people, the police officers did not worry about his threat, and they proceeded to arrest the driver as well as confiscating his car to send to the police headquarters immediately'.
    Did he pay the victim?
  • Car 'capsizing' during Water festival:
    '11 injured men sent one after another on Tuesday afternoon after their car had capsized on the national route number six A'.
  • What's it like to travel in Phnom Penh during the Water festival. SunSan on Khmer440 forum:
    'I made the mistake of driving into Sothearos from Mao Tse Tung last night... Arrived there at 7pm, left at just after 10pm. Without even passing the Russian embassy. Never again!'
  • The response of Phnom Penh's citizens to avoid this is to 'flee' the city:
    ' "We didn't want to stay in Phnom Penh because it gets so crowded with traffic everywhere," ... '
    is just one comment in this Phnom Penh Post article.
  • Andy Brouwer agrees:
    'We had a taste of the traffic chaos expected during the water festival's 3-day horror-show next week, when the traffic lights failed on the city's main thoroughfares around 5pm tonight and every road including all the side roads around BKK1 were snarled up with traffic jams. It was complete madness and much like what I experienced during last year's water festival period. This year I won't be around as I'm off to the south coast on Saturday for a week's break'.
  • K.K. experiences how traffic is regulated during the Water festival:'
    'While I was thinking highly of the authority, suddenly I spotted a temporary road barrier placed at the side road on my left hand side, where several military police were guarding. Not only this one, but each side road had its own. The message was clear; no motorbikes or cars were allowed in. But I saw a few bikes passing through and I was wondering how they could do. The answer was obvious. Money!
    It was unreasonable to spend one dollar just to travel on a public road the government has to build for their own citizens. And if they really were ordered to keep public order by banning all vehicles inside, several other vehicles that had gone should not have been let in!!! I would listen if they had been doing their job'.
    Will these attitudes ever change?
  • This car also passed the barriers apparently.
  • Rainy season over? Not yet:
    'Nine kilometres of road works from Preah Vihear's Kou village to Ta Moan Thom temple have been postponed due to flooding and rain, officials said Sunday.

    "We can't build the road due to the ongoing rain. We have postponed it until the rain stops," said military engineer Kvan Siem'.
    It only exemplifies the logic of starting a road works project at all, if the rainy season is still underway.
  • Petrol prices not dropping in Cambodia. In Lao they're luckier:
    'The price of fuel will drop below 8,000 kip this week in Vientiane in line with lower prices on the global oil market, the Ministry of Industry and Commerce has announced'.
    See what a communist country can do for you!
  • Once out of town Andy brings us up to date with road to Bokor:
    'It was horrendous, well the road was. Yes its been widened but it ain't finished and looks like it'll be years before it is. Maybe the Sokimex company have bitten off more than they can chew with this one. I am black and blue from riding in the back of the pick-up truck as we bounced over every hole, bump and crevice in the unfinished road'.
  • More news from travelling to the provinces on the Khmer 440 site by scoffer:
    'The touts at Battambang are a bit of a rip off
    Got to Siem Reap, most buses stop at a compound several km’s outside of town, upon arrival the bus company I booked with, locked the gate behind the bus to keep the touts out and I was approached by a guy claiming to be a representative of the bus company wanting to know if I had booked accommodation and knew where I was going as he could arrange transport that would take me into town – my initial response was “Piss Off” all you will do is rip me off and sell me to a guest house, he smiled and walked away only to come back after I’d finished my smoke and settled a bit. He again showed me his ID and said he could arrange transport, I was still suspicious but let him talk, end result was I nominated a land mark in town I wanted to be dropped off at, no tour of possible guest houses required. He spoke to a driver outside and I was dropped off at the nominated area without any hassle and for a better price than the touts wanted. All without a tour of guest houses that paid commission to the drivers. Nice Touch !' His final comment: '
    And finally there is a degree of comfort in being able to stand up and move about that you don’t find when you are sardine number 11 in a mini van carrying 16 people, two motor bikes, 3 screaming children, 14 ducks, 170 kilos of rice in assorted bags 7 and an old man that smells as if he has been dead for 3 weeks.'

Friday, November 07, 2008

Chasing Cars, another pre-Water festival edition

More yawns? Apparently so.
  • 'But the peak-time electricity cuts in Russey Keo are upsetting more than local residents - the capital's major ring road runs through the area and power cuts mean traffic lights are out of operation, causing the roads to become nearly unmanageable.

    "Electricity shortages in Phnom Penh are causing major traffic jams," Tin Prasoeur, chief of the Phnom Penh traffic police, told the Post on Thursday.

    "We get a very bad headache when lamp posts and traffic lights on the major roads in this city are cut off as a result of no electricity," he said.'
    Again the traffic police lay the blame elsewhere. Conveniently. Over the last few months CC has mentioned a few times how once the electricity goes, traffic jams occur. And what do the traffic police posted at that intersection do? At best they try to fine a couple of moto's without mirrors. If not, they just hang out on the shady cornor and wait for an accident to happen.
  • Because accidents are a source of income for the traffic police:
    'Phnom Penh Police Chief Touch Naruth admitted that his force occasionally informed private clinics about traffic accidents, but said that most cases involved witnesses or victims calling them directly.
    "Our police do inform private clinics where traffic accidents are sometimes, but usually people at the scene call private clinics directly because they are faster."'
    But despite that admittance, the govenor of Phnom Penh goes on record:
    'Phnom Penh Governor Kep Chuktema denied at the meeting that his police department had accepted bribes to inform private clinics of accidents'.
    So why do we care?
    'In an bid to promote a public ambulance service, the Health Ministry has made it illegal for private ambulances to retrieve victims in emergency situations - even if they are first on the scene'.
    How long will the ban last? Until the Water festival?
  • Instead the government should start to wake up to the issue of petrol smuggling. Like the Tonle Sap when the flow of water changes, so does the direction of the smuggling change, it appears. Despite being dissatisfied with the petrol companies on lowering petrol prices, the following is now occuring:
    'Now, petrol is being smuggled from Cambodia into Vietnam, instead of the other way around'.
    Is Cambodia now subsidizing Vietnam?
  • But not to worry, vehicle tax income has risen by at least 12,5% above projections. So are there that many vehicles being imported or is the government not so good in 'projecting'? Despite knowing roughly what the inflow of tax would be:
    'Phnom Penh has an estimated 80,000 automobiles and 220,000 motorbikes, according to tax office figures'.
    Then the discussion on corruption:
    'Son Chhay [opposition lawmaker] said that tax officials often demand illegal fees when people pay their tax and that police collect bribes for violations, which also deprives the government of revenue.
    But Om Cham said the law does not force drivers to pay extra fees and that motorists paying bribes were breaking the law'.
    Yeah right, the motorists are breaking the law! Blame the others!
  • Back to the start of today's entry, traffic lights. Vuthasurf surprisingly feels guilt because of a 'blue' light?
    'When approaching in the middle of street, the blue light turned into red.
    At that time, I felt ashamed about myself because of breaking the traffic light law'.

Wednesday, November 05, 2008

Chasing Cars, before the water festival

Well is there anything new to mention? Not really, a lot of yawns. Laws being enforced maybe / possibly, fuel prices failing to drop, a couple of accidents here and there, so to start off let's focus for once on the not so up-to date:
  • Mr Parish-without-borders travelled upcountry to Kampong Cham:
    'There was a lot of mud but also surprisingly a lot of dust when a road would switch from wet to dry in the space of a few meters--and then switch back again'.
    As always there's a couple of photo's to prove his story.

    He also still continues to photograph the weird world of wacky modes of transport in Phnom Penh. An example from September 5:

    "It's not too bad, as long as I don't breathe...."
  • Helmet laws to enforced? Have we heard that before? I believe so. But as of 'early 2009' the law will be enforced. Which differs slightly from the last announcement which said January 1, 2009. But as always there's a catch:
    'But the new laws have only been haphazardly enforced, and motorists complain that they are just another chance for police to extort money from them, saying that the amount they are fined for minor offences is often more than the legal limit'.
    The head of traffic police concedes:
    'Tin Prasoeur admitted that among the 500 traffic police in Phnom Penh there are some who fine people too much.
    "We have suspended many of them from work for taking extra money from people," he said.
    Traffic officers often say they take extra money to supplement their meagre incomes.'
  • 'NGO Worker Dies in necklace robbery' reads the cation above Phnom Penh's Post Police Blotter of November 5. However unfortunate, had she been wearing a helmet the result could have been different.
    'Thun Yany, 50, was riding a moto-taxi when two gangsters snatched her necklace causing her to fall off and her head to hit the street. She was seriously injured and had a lot of bloodshed on the head'.
  • The new laws on keeping street vendors off the street? The Cambodia Travel Guide (which actually is a blog):
    'police ARE implementing the new rule by removing vendors from around the Russian Market (Psah Toul Tom Poung) and some other streets'.
    However, it seems that the police are acting to get the vendors to sign up a market position in a new local market building. Who would have thought of that?
  • Mondulkiri province has yet to profit from the halving of the world oil price:
    'Prices in Modolkiri have reached 7,000 riel (Us$ 1,75) per liter, about 2,000 riel higher than in Phnom Penh. Many here blame it on a fuel monopoly in the province’s capital, and even roadside fuel vendors say they cannot lower it further'.
    'Khun Samnang said she’d been importing fuel for the past two years from the only dealer in the province, a man named Leng Hour, who, other villagers say, seems to adjust the fuel price arbitrarily'.
  • More arbitration? The government has petrol companies within it's aim:
    'The government has lashed out at Cambodian petroleum companies, accusing them of price gouging as a Monday deadline for petrol prices at the pump to drop to 4,000 riels (US$1) a litre passed unmet'.
    '[Caltex] said the timing of pump price adjustments depends on a combination of factors, including currency exchange rates, inventory levels, freight rates, product quality premiums, refined product prices, market demand and competitors' reactions to market forces'.
    So not to government pressure. Could the Cambodian government do something about the strengthening dollar? Hmmm, though so.
  • Careful now, police actually are acting to quell an accident dispute:
    '... the tension then rose between the car driver who was slightly injured and the drunk motorcycle driver who had a gun on his waist. Warned by the car driver, the police intervened and one of the cops shot a bullet in the air to calm down the situation'.
  • Finally what 's the latest on the Poipet-Siem Reap road I hear you say. Daryn and Hayden on bring you up to date:
    'The road between Poipet (the Cambodian border town) and Siem Reap is obviously a major tourist route, but is still unsealed and hugely potholed and in disrepair'.
    The actual experience:
    'So the roads are terrible, it's getting dark, and we stop for dinner. The previously charming and smiling tour guide then comes to all our tables and tells us that the bus will be stopping at the guesthouse he works for, so we can stay there otherwise we can get a tuk tuk into town. No biggie. He then, however tells us that if we do not stay at his guesthouse it is likely that we will get mugged, and he will not help us if this happens. Charming.
    So we get back on the road. About half an hour in, we're stopped by two huge trucks who have become stuck in the huge piles of mud on the ridiculously bad road. The engine stops, and it appears we may have to spend a night in the bus - no great drama, there's a good crowd, a bottle of vodka gets passed around, the guitar comes out, it's all rather school-camp like. The guide then comes on and tells us that he's going home, and that he can maybe call some tuk tuk driver friends of his to come and get us, if we will pay them handsomely. The idea that a tuk tuk could make it through these roads, and the thought of being stranded in an open sided tuk tuk minus the security of being in a group is not an attractive option. We ask what will happen to the bus tomorrow and the guide tells us that maybe it will go, maybe it won't, but if we don't help him he doesn't care and that he's off to bed. The whole episode is such a farce at this point that everyone actually in very jovial moods - despite the borderline threatening behaviour of the innocent faced guide.
    Eventually, a tow truck arrives and pulls the trucks out, and we're able to get through. We arrive at Mr tour guides aforementioned guesthouse about 11pm - 15 hours after we left, the last 7 spent covering the tiny distance of about 120km'.
    Ah well, could be worse. They also go on to explain how they were overcharged for the Cambodian visa and
    '... changed the money he just assumed he was getting a fair rate. Needless to say, we realised later on we had been well and truly had - for about a third of the value of the money'.
    Welcome to Cambodia!

Thursday, October 30, 2008

October '08s' last Chasing Cars

Another week, another list of traffic related news:
  • Drawing up a workable traffic law is proving to have some difficulties. Not here in Cambodia, but over in Vietnam. Apparently the the Ministry of Health was requested to come up with physical requirements needed to be met before obtaining/extending a drivers' license. According to AFP, the Ministry had drafted an 83(!) point plan, no less. The main points:
    'The Decree 33/2008 says that those who are under 1.45m tall and weighing under 40kg will no longer be allowed to drive motorbikes, and car drivers must now be at least 1.5m'.
    Basically it had been some crude guess work by officials. Anyone under the Vietnamese average (that's usually 50% of the population) should be viewed as unhealthy and thus unfit to drive. Besides discriminating against women (who weigh less and are smaller), disabled would also be discriminated against.

    Naturally common sense caught up with this plan and it has been shelved:
    'The Ministry of Health has admitted its recent decision to set 83 health criteria for drivers of cars and motorbikes was unworkable'.
    However the aforementioned AFP article sees some (cheap?) way of gaining extra readers. One of the standards to be met included the circumfence of the drivers chest:
    '... spurned jokes about traffic police with tape measures enthusiastically flagging down female motorcyclists, and predictions of a run on padded bras'.
    However, it seems AFP have problems with the anatomy of flat-chested persons. They tend to be males. Oops.

    What about drivers who can't see over the bonnet of their Lexuses?
  • When is a crash, an accident in Cambodia? On the one hand, you could say that traffic participants in Cambodia are so ignorant, that every accident must be an accident. Or the reverse, due to the ignorance (and it being known to all) all accidents are intentional. Stay at home, no accidents. However this is no laughing matter to some:
    'Well-known comedian Prum Manh, 58, told the Post Tuesday his motorbike crash over the weekend, in which a car collided with him, may not have been an accident and that he continues to fear for his personal safety.
    Tin Prasoeur, Phnom Penh's municipal traffic police chief, told the Post Tuesday: "I was informed by one of my officers that the car involved in the accident was yellow and made in Korea, but it will be difficult to find without the plate number." '
    How many yellow Korean cars are there in Phnom Penh? Not many.

    Anyway who could be an enemy of a comedian? A very serious guy? Another comedian? The accident though has not affected his sense of humour:
    ' "I know the car's plate number, but I will not reveal it now," Prum Manh said. "I will only tell a competent police officer when I file an official report." '
    CC wishes Prum good luck with that quest; that should keep occupied for a couple of years.
  • Traffic safety issues are a worthwhile cause. The first 9 months in Vietnam have seen a 13% drop in traffic deaths.
    'He emphasised the need for continued campaigns to create awareness of traffic rules, for the provision of regular street patrols and strict punishment for those who violate road laws.

    He placed special emphasis on long-distance buses and those travelling on motorcycles without helmets'.

    Let's compare with Cambodia, gosh all the above does not apply here. Now the more difficult question, why not?

  • Proof? Khmernews mentions a new regulation:
    'The Phnom Penh municipality called on all citizens, who are doing business on Phnom Penh City roadsides, to stop selling goods or foods on those pavements within seven districts'.
    They've been given a week. But:
    'Phnom Penh police chief Touch Naroth said that we will try to reinforce the public order although we cannot reach 100 percent'.
  • Are Cambodia's railways really being spruced up? The Phnom Penh Posts believes so:
    'Management of Cambodia's national railway is set to be transferred to an Australian company that is to upgrade the system and collect revenue.

    The 30-year contract would go to Toll Holdings to renovate the existing system and add additional lines.'
    One surprise is that:
    'We expect the railroad to be mainly for passengers, not goods'.
    Hmmm, that seems to be in contrast to all the earlier agreements. And why then sign a contract with Toll Holdings, who are an Australian logistics operation with no proven knowledge of transporting passengers. At least according to their web-site. Time will tell?

Friday, October 24, 2008

I suppose it's another chasing cars

Keeping you up to date on Cambodian traffic (un)possibilities:
  • It's rainy season, though it's nearly over. The Mirror has translated a Khmer language article: Rains flood the roads in Phnom Penh.
    'A Phnom Penh road traffic police officer complained again that their office is flooded stronger than before after the recent rain, and there is no drainage to let the water out, and the Phnom Penh municipality does not take any immediate action to pump out the water. The flood makes it impossible for the road traffic police officials to do their work and solve traffic problems easily, because the water goes up to the knee and stinks'.
    Does anyone have a job description of a traffic policeman?
  • An in-depth report on how to get from Bangkok to Siem Reap overland. How to bargain:
    'As for me, while filling in the forms, the men told me they could help me get a taxi from Poipet to Siem Reap. One of them insisted the price was USD60. I said, how can that be? I paid only USD35 from Siem Reap to Poipet. He said it is because of the police, who demand tax from the taxi drivers. I said no, the taxi is only USD40 (a French customer had told me this was the amount she had paid) . This guy then said, yes, before it was USD40, but now, it is USD60 "because of the fucking police," he spat. He said it with such conviction I almost believed him.

    There was another younger man, a boy, really, who was listening to all this and who kept saying, "It is ok bong-srei (elder sister), you can take a taxi from the other side" (once you get across from the checkpoint is what he means). When I said I would take the taxi if it is USD40, the first guy told me to hold on while he calls his boss. While waiting for his boss to decide, this guy proudly showed off his gold bracelet, worth USD200. I decided he must make good money scamming tourists.

    In any case, his boss said no go. When I had walked away, the guy actually drove his motorcycle up to me and tried to bargain one last time. "50 dollars ok, bong-srei?"

    Of course I said no and continued walking. I was just amazed--they must make such good money from the scam they would even turn away a fair price for one of their taxis.

    While walking towards the checkpoint many other taxi touts came up to us. I was so annoyed by then I said loudly in Khmer, "I always thought Cambodians were honest (smao trong), but you're not. I live in Cambodia, helping Khmers and yet you still try to cheat me." I was really quite pissed off. Anyway, two of the men seemed shocked and one said in Khmer, no, no, we will charge you a fair price, USD40 for the whole taxi. It was the price I was willing to pay all along so I agreed and they helped mom and I with our bags'.
  • Biking for fun? Apparently this can be done in Siem Reap. Well, actually it's a race, not everyone's idea of fun:
    'The 30K races cover one loop around the magnificent Angkor Wat complex and other temples, including Angkor Thom'.
  • More discussion on sidewalks. This time from Khmer 440 forum:
    'Khmer parking always reminds me of that Woody Allen movie where he gets out of the car and says, ''It's OK. I can walk to the kerb from here.'' '
  • And more discussion on city 'improvements'. Traffic lights (pointless?), poor surfacing, poor parking. The solution:
    'If there are Town Planners in this city, they need to be fucking shot. I just despair some ( most ) times'.
    Luckily, I can't believe there are any city planners, just as well.
  • The lack of city planning in Phnom Penh was also observed by Nat. Geo. Adventure magazine. For a discussion see DaS.
  • A tuk-tuk ambulance?
    'The tuk-tuk ambulance service will be available to all Siem Reap children and will deliver them to the Angkor Hospital for Children'.

Friday, October 10, 2008

Up Next

Interesting or not? Just the other week the police were announcing their future crackdown plans (on helmets), today's (October 10, 2008) Phnom Penh Post mentions that as of next week, poor parking will be main target of the traffic police.

The article reveals that even the traffic police leaders, are apprehensive about the effectiveness of the measure:
'But Tin Prasoer, chief of Phnom Penh's traffic police said changing people's parking habits would be a difficult task. "We have had a ban on parking before. [not valid anymore?]
We need to re-educate drivers and ask them to pay the extra money it costs to police the area and bring their cars to the police station." '
A cryptic message at best. No other than the governor of Phnom Penh has mentioned that
'All cars that park on the sidewalk for no reason will be fined'.
As there are hardly any other places to park in Phnom Penh than on the sidewalk, potentially it means that car owners will have to leave their cars at home while shopping or employing a chauffeur to drive circles while the owner runs errands. But isn't parking a valid reason?

The article then goes on how street 284 will be made an example of. Funny enough, the article comes with a photo, which is not of street 284, but of street 274, otherwise known as Sihanouk Boulevard. Now that boulevard is infamous for poor parking, especially near the Lucky's supermarket, ANZ bank, the new night hot spot 'The Place' and the offices of the country's no. 1 mobile phone company / internet provider Mobitel. But near the Olympic market, as the article suggests, poor parking is less of a problem, complete chaos is a bigger threat.

Now why single out street 284? There are actually no parking problems on this street, see photo. Another misinformed article by PPP?

Street 284: just another Phnom Penh street. Where is the parking problem?

Friday, October 03, 2008

October's first issue of Chasing Cars

  • With P'chum Ben well and truly behind us, the Cambodian government have starting backslapping themselves. Why? Because a perceived doubling of accidents during P'Chum Ben holidays has not materialized. The reason?
    'Traffic officials say road safety education programs are paying off, with fewer accidents during this year's festival'.
    That's funny when the figures rise, the blame is on the traffic participant him/herself, when they drop it's due to official policy. Let's hope the drop is not proven to be one-off (dreadful weather might be another explanation), otherwise the officials will have to come up with a new explanation.
    By the way the PPP article also mentions:
    ' "We will expand our program in November and focus on the importance of wearing helmets, because 80 percent of people who die in traffic accidents die from head injuries," she [Sann Socheata, Road Safety Program Manager of Handicap International Belgium] said. She added that police will begin fining drivers not wearing helmets in January'.
    Now let's hope the traffic police themselves are also as informed.
  • By the way, city officials claim the drop was due to 'increased police presence'. Neither, neither.
  • Vuthasurf seems to be already on the right side of the law:
    'I am now accustomed to wearing helmet almost every times while riding motorbike to work or go anywhere. It is more than 5 years since I have worn safety helmet. Before I thought it was not necessary, or comfortable to wear it. By the way, it was heavy a little bit, and difficult to move around'.
  • The KR and asisting at scene's of accidents:
    'Finally, speaking of fear of strangers, I hate to admit that sometimes Cambodians do appear to be a little self-centered. Like you, I’ve come across many incidents where commuters do not help the victims of accidents, in fact, I never have either. But having said that, I believe this is mostly, if not entirely, due to the trouble you get from saving people. For instance, If someone sees an accident and tries to help the injured, he/she may have to pay for their hospital bills (as you know, people are very poor and nobody would want to spend their own money) or to be involved with the police.
    The lack of help for victims of accidents which now is the cultural norm is extraordinarily unusual. I can’t think of another country or society in which it happens even though there are many where governments are corrupt and there are many poor'.
    Don't count on assistance! (Isn't that weird?)
  • Back to the officials. As often reiterated on this blog, they haven't got a clue about solving traffic problems before they arise:
    'A total lack of urban planning is putting Phnom Penh in danger of serious traffic jams and flooding'.
  • A big surprise, Cambodia's national flag carrier is yet to appear in the dark and cloudy skies. Blame it on the 'negotiations'. With airlines going bankrupt, easy finance disappearing and a global slowdown possibly around the corner, nobody is expected to invest in an airline, let alone in Cambodia. But Cambodian ministers remain upbeat:
    ' "The new carrier is expected to be profitable because of the rising number of travelers coming to the Kingdom," he [Deputy Prime Minister Sok An] added'.
    But surprise: increasing numbers of travelers don't result in a profitable company.

Tuesday, September 23, 2008

Chasing Cars, September 23, 2008

With Pchum Ben festivities nearing, both the police checks and bag snatching have increased, is this not a contradiction?

Despite the outbreak of police checks, moto's with mirrors are still increasing but not in majority. The same applies for helmet wearing drivers, 40-50% now have taken to wearing helmets. Still if you have witnessed the effort the traffic police have dedicated to pulling moto's up, the figure might represent a disappointment, possibly something is going wrong with the enforcement.

Witness Crossing Cambodia did of a bag snatching incident. Two guys pull up next to 2 girls, chat, chat, laugh, laugh, lung, grab and tear off down a side street. Be careful out there!
  • The government is now pressuring oil companies to get their prices down. All the posturing resulted in the prices at the pump drop by a whopping 0,02 $US! This article in the Phnom Penh Post sums up all the claims: prices have failed to go down.
    But the government responds:
    'International crude oil prices soared more than 84 percent by June 2008, while the price of petrol in Cambodia only rose about 40 percent, the [Finance] minister said, crediting the difference to the government's "silent subsidy" of petrol'.
    Unfortunately the 'silent subsidy' claims that the government probably stopped increasing it's import revenue on petrol, changing from a percentage tariff to a fixed amount. So no subsidy, just less income. Then again why should the government get more by fleecing the consumer?
  • Bangkok, this weekend, saw the 'Car Free Day'. And that does not mean that cars were exempt from paying toll on the elevated highways! No, it means grab a bike or take the bus. Funny thing is it is government endorsed:
    'In Thailand, the Bangkok Metropolitan Administration, Bicycle for Health Society, the Thai Health Promotion Foundation and Green Peace Southeast Asia will join 14 of the world's largest cities in the car-free day'.
    The closest Cambo authorities get to even mentioning non-motorized transport is when they slag off all too poor for having no wheels. The gov of PP mentioned:
    'Phnom Penh Governor Kep Chuktema said Sunday that the citywide pavement narrowing project will help make more room for cars, and should not be problematic as few people use the capital’s sidewalks anyway.
    “I want to reduce all the sidewalks to be smaller and smaller because our people use cars and motorbikes. We do not like to walk” Kep Chuktema said'.
  • Car Free Day was 'celebrated' in Vietnam as well.
  • In Vietiane they have a novelty:
    'The Vientiane Urban Development and Administration Authority is in the process of installing 50 road name signs around Vientiane ...'
    'Forty road signs have already been installed, but the authority lacks sufficient funds to continue with the project and is waiting for further support from the International Association of French Mayors.
    Thank god for the French.
  • Why Cambo airlines will never get anywhere: more than a year after an air crash involving South Koreans the relatives have actually have to sue the Cambodian airline to get some kind of compensation. Let's hope they're not holding their breath.
    What are you in for?
    'South Korean investigators have concluded that the accident was caused by pilot error, problems with the airport's automated radar terminal system and defects in the plane'.
  • A very strange article in the Sydney Morning:
    'Malaysia's worst in the world taxis tarnish image
    In a survey by the local magazine The Expat, some 200 foreigners from 30 countries rated Malaysia the worst among 23 countries in terms of taxi quality, courtesy, availability and expertise'.
    Well quite correct to take those taxi drivers to the cleaners, my opinion is similar: they are not at all what Malaysia makes them to be. Then again, Malaysia = truly Asia, so not such a big surprise. Cambodia counts itself lucky they weren't part of the survey on the grounds of having no taxi's to speak of. Could Cambodia not have entered moto's instead., they are after all our local 'taxis'? See who then would end at the bottom of the heap. Our moto drivers are no where near a KL taxi driver ...
  • Another bad Poipet experience:
    'We also got shepherd into a mafia taxi with another couple, we all pay 15 usd each. The mafia man taking charge of getting us into a taxi was getting angry with us because we first lied about having our visa already when he approached us at immigration on the Thai side, then we didn't go straight to his taxi and wanted to look around. He kept saying we could trust him, he was with the Tourist Police and we told him we didn't trust them either.
    We couldn't find any other option so took his anyway'.
  • Back to the bag snatchers. There are also amateurs entering this profession:
    Chea Dara, 16, was severely beaten by a crowd of bystanders after he pulled Kong Darany, 28, off her motorbike in an unsuccessful bag snatching attempt on the corner of street 109 and Russian Boulevard in Prampi Makara district of Phnom Penh at 11:30am Monday. The police said that Chea Dara, who was pulled off his motorbike by the bystanders, "was severely beaten by the people until he lost consciousness". He is currently in police custody awaiting trial'.
  • More things increasing:
    'Some 1,777 traffic accident casualties were reported by hospitals, health centres, private clinics and traffic police departments in 24 provinces for June, an increase of 20 percent over May, according to the Cambodian Road Traffic Accident and Victim Information System'.

Saturday, September 13, 2008

Chasing Cars, the wet edition

Some torrential down pours this week. This lead to a first feature:
  • Vuthasurf describes what happens when the heavens open themselves. The consequences are
      a. everybody waits til the rain is over.
      b. the streets flood
      c. once drier everybody simultaneously decides to hit the flooded streets.

    And then?
    'During the rain, the drivers of cars and motorbikes rarely respect the traffic light.... While I reached the traffic light, the large number of motorbikes, cars, and trucks close together and unable to move or moving very slowly in the middle of street'.
    And the traffic police:
    'While during the chaos in the street, I did not see the traffic police officers at the sense in order to help ease the trouble of the traffic'.
    That about sums up this week. Rain, traffic jams and incompetence. Incompetence? Surely not!

    Just yesterday on a stretch of Sihanouk Boulevard two squads of 8 police men each trying to apprehend everything evil passing, which seems to be everything with a motor and on two wheels. They were positioned on 2 busy intersections. Due to some poor macro-economic planning from Cambodia's chief of staff my journey coincided with a power cut rendering the brand new set of traffic lights useless. So traffic snarls up. And what do the police do? Nada! Not their problem.
  • The blame game continues, now (IRIN reports) the traffic deaths are due to 'rapid urbanization', as if safety issues are non-achievable. If this were the case then the most urban of countries would have the highest number of deaths, but that's not the case.
    'But even better roads create other problems, Duly [road safety adviser for Handicap International Belgium]contends.
    “Now people have wider, paved roads right outside the city, and they go even faster,” he told IRIN. “Speeding accounts for half of all fatalities.” Alleviating the number of fatalities, said Duly, means educating the population about road safety and encouraging police to enforce traffic laws.

    Another priority is making sure the Ministry of Public Works and Transport has the capacity to gather and analyse traffic data. Handicap International gave more than 100 GPS detectors and data-gathering tools to the police to improve the mapping of accident trends.

    “It's very important they have these tools to look at accidents,” said Sem Panhavuth, who manages road safety data for Handicap International. “So far they haven't been able to analyse much where accidents are happening or where they might occur.”'
    So clearly HIB doubt whether the traffic police can add up. Instead they even need GPS to note the places where accidents happens. What happened to old-fashion methods of reporting where the accident took place and putting pins on a map. You could even digitize the reports, but all can be done without GPS. Wasting money?
    Then the reality:
    'Cambodian police officers regularly abuse traffic laws in favour of government and business elites, drivers claim.

    “Any time there's a motorbike or car accident, the more powerful person gets his way,” said Sok Chesda, a motorbike taxi driver in Phnom Penh. “Usually we don't even call the police, but just leave the scene if a rich person hits us, even if they are at fault.”

    When a traffic accident means injury or damage to a vehicle, the two sides negotiate a price and settle on who should pay — usually the party with fewer government connections, a group of taxi drivers said.

    Police in Phnom Penh are, nonetheless, minimally involved in traffic enforcement. Instead of enforcing crucial laws against speeding, drunk driving, or wearing helmets, they focus on “easier” regulations like rear-view mirrors and licence plates, Duly said.

    “It's good they're enforcing those types of laws too, but we're really urging them to recognise the importance of stopping speeders and drunk drivers.”

    However, according to Sok: “If the police stop me for speeding or anything, I'll just give them 2,000 riels [US$0.50] and continue driving,” he said.'
    Just yesterday a person Crossing Cambodia knows was asked to pay 50$ for no apparent infringement!
  • Then again it's not always clear how traffic safety issues work. From the NZ Herald no less, an image of Thailand:

  • A couple of weeks ago, a mention of a Phnom Penh cyclists club, this time a Vespa scooter club. Sopach adds an up date. The objective: '
    'To travel countryside and to make friends'.
    Accompanied by Vespa mechanic!
  • And what's the reality out of PP? Kampuchea Crossings (like the name) highlight the lack of development in Kampot province.

Saturday, September 06, 2008

Chasing Cars, 6 September, 2008

Is there much to mention? Not really.

For those of you paying attention to your fellow road users, you may have noticed this week how wearing a helmet and having mirrors on your moto has suddenly become popular. Earlier in the week, helmet wearing percentages were roughly 10 - 20%, by yesterday these have shot up to 40-50%. The same applies for mirrors, from a hardly noticeable 5-10%, yesterdays numbers were 40-50%. At the same time, police razzia's haven't increased much, so possibly our fellow-moto's know something we ignorants don't?

Then again in the past we've seen these percentages spike, only to drop a few weeks later, when the police are up to something more interesting.

  • The previously mentioned taxi service is getting off to a good start, so writes Cambodge Soir (16 August, where has CC been?):
    'The Sino-Khmer joint venture is transporting between 200 and 300 customers a day'.
    For just 12 cars, that means 15-25 customers per day, certainly encouraging. Luckily the article also clarifies what a taxi service is:
    'This taxi company is a Sino-Khmer joint venture. Its particularity: each vehicle is equipped with a taxi meter'.
    And then a free philosophical questions as final statement:
    'It is now the question whether this company will succeed. Six months ago, a Vietnamese company offering a similar service closed down. A few years ago, the public bus service launched by the government ended as a total failure. A sign of how difficult it is for the Cambodians to change their transportation habits. Indeed, how can one compete against the string of motodops and tuk-tuks which are available at every street corner?'
  • Khmer 440 is always on top of everything topical: servicing waterlogged moto's
    'I went home and street 13 was so flooded my bike got submerged'.
    A sign of the times?
  • As if Thailand isn't falling apart already some sneaky figures have been carting off some of Thailand's best moto's to .... Cambodia! Hardly newsworthy, but Thai police with nothing else to do have been putting a halt to this. Tough luck Cambodia.
  • Last week we focused on an imaginative tale published in Thailand, this week's fairy tale comes from the US. Once upon a time there was ... Sihanoukville:
    Australian-owned guesthouses line its streets'
    Then Phnom Penh:
    'Muddy Toyota Land Cruisers with Croix Rouge [Red Cross] logos have morphed into Lexus SUVs. Thai-style tuk-tuks - three-wheeled open taxis - have invaded. Ambitious office buildings are being added to the skyline'.
    Office buildings? Where? Thai-style tuk-tuks? The PP tuk-tuks are inherently Cambo-bred.
    Going to Kep?
    'The route through Phnom Penh's dusty suburbs, past garment factories and swarms of Khmer schoolchildren in uniform, seemed to take forever. But we eventually wound south on two-lane National Route 3, traversing the monotone Cambodian plain. Only as the temperature dipped and we approached the coastal mountains did the scenery gain intrigue, just as the paved road ended for a bone-jarring 20-mile-drive to the outskirts of Kep'.
    As compared to
    'Bokor Hill Station, perched at an elevation of 3,500 feet at the end of a bone-jarring 26-mile ride'.
    Basically if you read this article, do you recognize it? Or has some editor brought in some 'finishing' touches?

Has anyone noticed that street 51 is disappearing before our eyes? Beware of the stick!(Near Elsewhere)

The place to be? 'The Place' a posh new fitness / Chinese restaurant / sky bar / dentist (the latter is just a rumour) has opened up just beyond Independence monument on Sihanouk Blvd. Despite claims that it's the place to be, the owners are either expecting tough times or are ignorant, as they have only 6 parking spots. Let's see how they tackle this.

Friday, August 29, 2008

Chasing Cars, end of August 2008

So what's new? Well, I could include a long list of articles referring to accidents happened, but basically they would all lead to the same Phnom Penh Post source, so if that's your interest just check their site.

Anything else?

Certainly. Police are still trying to enforce the law at least concerning the absurd notion that having mirrors might result in a drastic drop of fatalities. If anything, more accidents will occur, as the mirrors stick out and are more likely to snag other riders' mirrors. But still, you have to start somewhere.

  • Yesterday's (28-08-2008) Cambodiamirror(!) Khmer language translated press review (from Khmer Machas Srok, Vol.2, #231) focuses on enforcing the law and the PM's nephews: there seem to be some contradictions between enforcing the law and having good connections:
    '“A lawyer, an official of the Ministry of Public Works and Transport, reported to The Cambodia Daily that drivers involved in accidents that result in the death of a persons cannot legally escape from a conviction of a crime by paying a compensation to the family of the dead victim.
    “However, Mr. Khieu Kanharith, the Minister of Information and the government spokesperson, seemed to protect the perpetrator, Mr. Hun Sen’s nephew, in a press conference on Sunday.
    “It is reported that Mr. Hun Chea, Mr. Hun Sen’s nephew, had paid a compensation of US$4,000 to the family of the victim who rode on his small motorcycle and died through the accident, but there is no legal action taken. Mr. Khieu Kanharith said that doing so [paying a compensation to the victim’s family] is legal in Cambodia'.

  • Law enforcement in neighbouring Lao takes place as such:
    '“On this model road, we want to fully enforce traffic regulations and ensure proper traffic management will be put along the road so road users will have to strictly obey the traffic rules,” he said.
    He explained the road would be fully equipped with traffic signs, speed inspection areas, cameras, designated vehicle lanes and directional markings. ...
    “As we have seen on highways overseas, we need to have standards and proper facilities on our roads to ensure the safety of road users and prevent accidents,” he said.
    Police Captain Sengthong said the concept would be extended to another road if the first road proved to be successful in forcing road users to obey traffic regulations'.
    So, let me get this right, they are seriously thinking about enforcing the law as a great way to reduce accidents, but instead of starting with mirrors, they'll start with 1 (important) road. Smart? What's more, they point to other countries as prime examples. Now why are the Khmer not so smart?
  • Talking itself up, Cambodia believes it has the worst traffic record in the whole of ASEAN. DaS mentions this, referring to the Bangkok Post:
    'Cambodia is now officially home to the most dangerous roads in the 10-member Association of Southeast Asian Nations, officials said Thursday'.
    But how official?
    'The ministry did not provide updated comparisons to other ASEAN countries, but said Cambodia's fatality rate puts it ahead of much larger nations such as the Philippines, also known for road chaos'.
    Your claim to fame? More propaganda:
    'The government spent millions on driver education, taking out television and newspaper advertisements and setting up driver education centres, after the Asian Development Bank estimated accidents cost the country 3 per cent of its GDP in 2003 alone'.
    The government spent millions? Ha! The whole article is a hoax. VoA mentions:
    'In the first five months of 2008, 10,555 people were injured in traffic accidents, while 645 were killed, said Meas Chandy, road safety coordinator for Handicap Cambodia.
    Whereas Bangkok Post mentions
    '956 in the first half of 2008'.
    So in June alone 300 deaths? Then again the cited article seems to be incorrect as well, as the PPP (August 28, 2008) mentions 716 in the first 5 months (their site is down (sic!)) which corresponds with the most recent data of Road Traffic Accident and Information System. So if, what is right in the Bangkok Post, June would have resulted in about 240+ deaths, roughly 30% above the deadliest month yet (Feb. '08) or 50% above this year's monthly average. Now that would be news, rather than citing some official and naming it 'official'.
    Or what I would be more concerned about is how all know the reasons for the deaths are:
    'The increase of deaths was the result of "over-speed and drunken driving'.
    So what are mirrors going to do to alleviate this?
  • More Lao news:
    'Govt closes low tax loophole for cars.
    The government has closed a tax concession loophole that was being exploited by investors to allow them to import luxury cars into the country without paying normal rates of tax'.
    Again a good way of ensuring law and order CC thinks, just let everybody know you're there and make clear that what is illegal/unjust will not prevail. Now in Cambodia are there loopholes? Or just the one, big one?
  • The future of cyclo's:
    'Some people say the cyclo, though pollution free, may be on its last leg, as demand for them decreases'.
    Pollution free and not subject to petrol prices.
    'Unlike other cyclo drivers, who are typically of an older generation, Chdou Kosey said he merely wished to explore the life of cyclo peddlers. Besides, he said, there are stories of many successful people who started off as cyclo drivers.

    "In fact, I heard from my teacher that some excellencies also peddled the cyclo," he said. "The cyclo is just my temporary job." ... '
    Now there are about 10 cyclo shops left in Phnom Penh because there is no space for parking and no peddlers. I think it will disappear in the next four or five years."
    Alas? Or a good idea for PM's nephews?
Did I mention that last weeks posting was the lucky 333rd?
  • On a different note: Asialife (August 2008) focuses on "Leisure and wellness": the Easy Riders:
    'A small group of regular cyclists, the Easy Riders, have over the course of a few years, mapped out a variety of interesting routes to the outskirts of the city'.
    Get a copy if you're interested.
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