Crossing Cambodia

Friday, February 29, 2008

Chasing cars Cambodian Style, Friday the 29th of February 2008

Just a couple of mentions:
  • An update on the recent tuk-tuk - taxi situation at the airport:
    ' "Taxi drivers are not satisfied with the creation of a tuk-tuk association because, if there were tuk-tuk services at Phnom Penh International Airport, it would be a competition to get customers at the airport," said Hem Sareth, a taxi driver and representative of the Taxi Drivers' Association."[The association] would make it difficult for taxi drivers to earn a living, as local and international visitors prefer tuk-tuks to taxis".'
    This excerpt (of an interviewee (taxi-driver?)) lifted from the Mekong Times, online via EAS. Difficult to explain, competition versus no competition.
  • The road to nowhere, to Siem Reap. Something is happening:
    'I never thought I’d finally see the day, but the Siem Reap to Poipet road construction has progressed to the point of laying down pavement. Real pavement. About 20 km from Sisophon west towards Poipet is now a properly surfaced road and I imagine the remaining 25 km will be paved shortly. Sisophon to Kralanh is still dirt, but it’s good dirt'.
  • More imaginative roads:
    'An expressway linking the southern Can Tho city of Vietnam to Phnom Penh, capital city of Cambodia, will be built to facilitate the economic development in the two cities. ... The road is designed to be 35 m wide and have 6 lanes, with two more lanes likely to be added in the second phase'.
    Six lanes? Calling the current connection between these two cities one lane is even imaginative, let alone conjuring up an image of six lanes.
  • Another traffic related letter to the editor of Cambodia Daily this week:
    'Traffic accidents have become a very worrying issue with at least three deaths and 100 injuries nationally every day. According to the Ministry of Health, in some hospitals, road traffic causalities constitute more than half of the patients.It is believed that this man-made tragedy stems from human error. As such, both individuals and the government must do more to reduce road traffic accidents'.
    But what constitutes more?
    'Young drivers account for a high percentage of road users and should be the prime target for training on traffic rules and on the consequences of risking their own lives and endangering those of others. I [Sok-Kheang Ly, Phnom Penh resident] also believe that more educational programs on traffic rules should be broadcast through the media at primetime to raise awareness of this issue'.
    End of letter. What about enforcing the law?
  • Law enforcement in practice:
    'One Injured, Three Killed In Steng Treng Car Chase
    Sunday, February 24, 2008

    Stung Treng Province: An officer and two timber smugglers died and the other official got injured in Stung Treng Province after police officer car chased and touched [i.e. crashed], while overtook, the timber smuggler’s car on 22 February 2008, police said. The two illegal timber transporters, who used to be educated three times, known as Kol Bunth and his wife Srey Hiek, died at the scene, Siembok district police chief said'.
    Proof given education does not help. Hat off to the police.

Tuesday, February 26, 2008

Rush hour

That Cambodia (and Phnom Penh in particular) has been struggling with increasing traffic for quite a while would surprise no one, what with it catching up with neighbouring countries and the healthy economic growth. Mix this with the prestige given to car-ownership and one would understand why during rush-hour your journey takes longer and longer.

What does surprise, is the complete ignorance shown by authorities in addressing this, at least that's what you would come to believe. Then again there's this:
'Phnom Penh will begin operating buses from Friday in a month long experiment aimed at easing traffic jams and reducing accidents in the capital, Phnom Penh Governor Chea Sophara said Thursday.

The governor said 22 buses donated by the Japan International Cooperation Agency (JICA) will ply the city's two main boulevards.
The scheme also entails banning motorcycle taxis and three-wheeled cycles from using these boulevards, a move which has enraged drivers of the vehicles, who stand to lose income'.
For many, this would show how serious authorities are in addressing concerns of keeping traffic flowing while simultaneously providing cheaper transport. The problem though is that this article excerpt dates from 2001!

Phnom Penh City (defunct) Bus System: a bus stop to oblivion

Apparently, it fell through and seven years on the problems are the same, as are the solutions, however authorities fail to accept measures and simultaneously follow through on these. Take for instance the decree that large buses were to banned from the city center; it worked for a week, but nowadays there are simply more (and larger) buses picking up their passengers in Phnom Penh city center.

Though not publicly admitting to their lack of addressing the problem and enforcing it, one simply has to notice how the city authorities are increasingly turning to low-cost technocratic measures as an admittance of their incompetency. Keeping the rush hour traffic flowing can be achieved by widening the roads, a meter here, a meter there and new sets of traffic lights.

Widening Sihanouk; will it ensure free traffic flow, especially if the bottle necks are elsewhere?

Both measures are just stop-gap measures, widening the streets fails to keep up with traffic growth and is already nearing it's maximum limits (Monivong city center) and stop lights, well they are a story apart. Adhering to lights for instance is poor and installation of lights often leads to more rush hour problems, witness for instance Monireth and 271.

What we here at Crossing Cambodia fail to understand, is how Cambodia fails to learn lessons from it's neighbours. Take Vietnam, grappling with the same problems:
'As traffic is choking the streets of Hanoi and Ho Chi Minh City, Prime Minister Nguyen Tan Dung has asked government ministries to draw up suitable tax policies on both imported cars and spare parts, Vietnam News Agency reported'.
Now why can't Cambodia authorities think in the same league?

Thursday, February 21, 2008

Chasing Cars Cambodian Style, a day later than the last entry

  • Today's (Feb. 21, 2008) Cambodia Daily draws attention to the Bokor road upgrading (highway 32 from Kampot) which seems to be going good:
    'In just a few weeks, the 30 km road that winds its wau upthe mountain, and previously famous as a challenging dirt-bike trip, has been leveled and widenend almost the entire way to the top. ... reversing the previous policy that tourists would be kept from going up the 1,000 m high mountain until the development was complete, Sok Kong [the Cambodian investor] said Wednesday that the road would be re-opened from this week.'
    Tough luck for the alternative trekking industry which had appeared. But anyway what's the attraction in going up a hill just to see a building site? Enough of them here in Phnom Penh! Why do the tourists not try Kirirom for a change, nearly just as high, more accesible and some failed investments to be seen as they were abandoned and no building site.
  • Cambodia Pocket Guides in their recent publication the Tuk-tuk tales:
    'Unlike the traditional tuk tuk of Thailand and India which is a more or less enclosed single vehicle on three wheels, the Cambodian flavor is more of a trailer, secured, ahem, to a dodgy-looking hitch bolted onto a moto’s back seat. The apparatus (a metal knuckle about as big as a family-size can of kidney beans and located about an inch behind the driver’s third lumbar vertebra) looks like a grim recipe for instant paraplegia should a speeding Camry ram into the back of the hapless driver’s contraption.
    Like the taxi, it can carry four Western passengers in relative comfort, if not relative speed, or the members of up to three extended Khmer families. And unlike the moto it can carry a considerable amount of cargo, useful for moving or the late night eviction of a drunk and wild-eyed scissor-wielding loved one. They are also everywhere, easily beckoned with a casual wave unless you are like me when, like the cops, they seem to be unavailable when you really need one'.
    Why take a tuk-tuk?
    'At about $2 for a short trip or $12 for a half day or 50km, it’s a little cheaper than a taxi but definitely more, uh, fun. And with their predictable movements and constant speed they are probably safer than motos, at least for the passengers. The view is great, second only to a moto, and you can take in the sights and smells in relative protection from the elements. Also, you won’t be contributing so much to the problem of cars in the kingdom causing gridlock'.
  • For those of you who like the occasional photo, parishwithoutborders, has been putting some of his best up on the web for 8 (!) years. His series of Motorcycle passengers and Cargo is now up to no. 87. Here's one of the better ones from 2007, sleep tight!

Wednesday, February 20, 2008

Chasing Cars, Cambodian Style, 20 February 2008

  • This week the big news is the start sign towards the re-habilitation of Cambodia's railways. A connection to Bangkok will be relaid; it's safe to assume that the Khmer Rouge were responsible for this disappearance. Furthermore all other railways will be restored with a timetable of 2 years, it is hoped. ADB Bank is investing heavily in the project as well as other donors chipping in. The $73 million project covers nearly 500 km of rail. Photo's are here, the report is here (though the original is from Xinhua).

    The Cambodian Daily (Feb 18) quotes Transport minister Sun Chanthol:
    'Can you imagine getting on the train in Singapore and ending up [by mistake?] in Sihanoukville?'
    Neither can Crossing Cambodia, but if so, it will be a tedious affair; most probably 5 days on board! Ansd as passenger services do not seem to be very important it might be a hard sit.

    Further reports by Cambodge Soir, here from KI Media site, also report that $500 million more is required to hitch the Cambodian railways to the Vietnamese. The caption photo is great: Hun Sen helping the public with counting. 'How many fingers? Five! That's right five hundred million!'

    A report copied in The Mirror, but originally from Khmer Machas Srok however points out that:
    'It was only seen that the general director of the Royal Railways [of Cambodia] quietly bought one more villa and changed to new cars'.
  • More co-incidence:
    'Editor-in-chief of Sakal Khmer Newspaper Khuon Playvy was hit from behind with [Toyota] Camry car as he was riding his motorcycle in Phnom Penh. The event occurred around 8:40pm near Pet Lorksang hospital. Playvy said that before the hitting attempt he was threatened on phone to recheck his news article on page eight. He was seriously cruised [probably mean injured] in hands, feet and face'.
    Today's (20 February 2008) Cambodia Daily elaborates on the story:
    'Municipal traffic police chief Tin Prasoer said Tuesday he was unaware of the case'.
    Southeast Asian Press Alliance stated it was an:
    'apparent attack'.
    If everybody who has been rear-ended in Cambodia is victim of press-related intimidation, press freedom in Cambodia must surely be down the drain. Or not?
  • Trouble in paradise. Paradise called Ponchentong, Phnom Penh's airport. In contradiction to the Cambodian conviction of kidnapping customers before they even arrive, at the airport it's a rather sedate affair; you want a taxi you pay $7 and you are escorted off the airport to a hotel of your liking. What? You live in a house, well that's going to cost you more!

    Anyway the airport operate some kind of licensing fee which limits the number of taxi's which can pick-up customers in exchange for a $40 monthly fee. My regular cabbie says getting a taxi which has such a license requires putting up another $5,000 just for the privilege, so quite rightly they try to earn as much as possible by persuing commissions As if they have not enough headaches, the government is now adding another. Apparently tuk-tuk's have been now licensed to do the same, but naturally cheaper. Unfair competition! Despite the governor of Phnom Penh openly championing the cause (tuk-tuks), his deputy in today's Cambodian Daily says:
    'Our stance is not so clear yet'.
  • It's nearly a year since the traffic law was adopted and the
    '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'.
    In the Cambodian Daily, on the eigtheenth, so it must be true. As roughly 1 in 10 cars drives without plates at all and the aforementioned plates give certain privileges (the 'untouchables': you crash me, you pay!), license plate enforcement might become spectacular as of March 1!

Thursday, February 14, 2008

Chasing Cars Cambodian Style, Valentine's Day 2008

  • Chinese New Year? Less accidents. Why? Khmernews knows the answer:
    'According to Cambodia Daily reported that “during the Chinese new year accidents in 2008 is dropped down because of some people understanding and obeying the traffic law"'.
    Some people were out of town Crossing Cambodia thinks; nobody obey's the traffic law nor is nobody interested in understanding the intracacities of Cambodia's traffic law and the failure to implement / enforce it! Literally the Cambodian Daily report mentions:
    'a drop-off that they [police in Phnom Penh, Sihanoukville and Siem Reap] attributed to greater respect for traffic laws'.
  • What accidents are we talking about?
    Dusty Path Caused an Accident
    Monday, February 11, 2008
    On the 9th February the badly traffic accident cost the life of a motor’s driver, YOU OWN who has 46 years old.
    This accident was happened by a car drove opposition him and made the road dusty like a foggy, and he could not see the road so he drove his motor crash a palm tree.
    The location police at Borsat said that this dusty path make the driver could not see anything in front of him, but if the people drive carefully and slowly they will avoid this accident.
    Get injured because of shouting “why ride so fast”
    Monday, February 11, 2008
    On the 9th February in CHONG TNOL village TEK TLAR commune, RESSEY KOE District, There was a student named San Min got the serious injured because the group of seven teenagers fought him with using the big stick.
    The reason of this violent happened by the victim saw one of the teenager named Dara ride the bicycle very fast so he shouted “why ride so fast?”. A minute later, there were 6 or 7 people joined together with the violent tools in there hand such as big sticks, long [seat?] belts……for using to beat San Min. All the guilty guys were caught.
  • A good way to do nothing:
    "Sellers Urged to Include Helmets with Motorbikes".
    That's what today's (Thursday February 14, 2008) Cambodian Daily reports on a new idea floated by Phnom Penh Municipal Govenor. He
    'encouraged motorbike shops to include two safety helemets with each bike sold in a letter dated Feb. 8 and distributed to media outlets Wednesday'.
    Sorry, Crossing Cambodia does not understand. If you want shops to sell helmets why send the letter to the media? His deputy continues:'
    He [the deputy] also said that police could begin issuing tickets next month for people who disregard the year-old compulsory helemet requirement'.
    With the emphasis on could, but wouldn't ....
  • Today's (Feb 14, 2008) Bangkok Post shows what takes place there:
    'Hands on the Wheel:
    Drivers using mobile phones without a hands free device will be fined after a new law takes effect on May 7'.
  • Independent confirmation, the ferries to Koh Kong province are fastly becoming extinct:
    'Two new bridges among four were opened for people to use in Koh Kong. The two bridges connect National road No4 in Sre Ambil point to Koh Kong province. They were built under grant of Thai government which worth US$7.5 million. The bridge called Sre Ambil Bridge is 420m long and the second is Ta Tai with 390m long'.
  • Let's hope that figure is correct. Moneakseka Khmer reports:
    'The Ministry of Economy and Finance official said that the projects to build roads, irrigation networks, bridges, and other facilities, if they are financed by the ADB, always have to go through biddings, meaning that it is a little bit difficult for government officials to lay their paws on this money. However, the money for repairing roads and bridges that are damaged in spots is not subject to biddings. Consequently, the corrupt officials have a chance to swallow it'.

Friday, February 08, 2008

Chasing Cars Cambodian Style, 8 February 2008

  • Chinese / Vietnamese New Year means that the big shots are out of town despite them being 100% Khmer ... Anyway, an opportunity for Phnom Penh governor to talk tough:
    'Kep Chuktema [the gov'] said that the new traffic law has been in effect for a long period of time and, by now, the population should be aware of it already. He said that, therefore, from now on, the city authority will no longer be lenient on these traffic violations anymore'.
    Apparently his call co-incides with an order (why does he need an order to enforce the law?)
    'to arrest all vehicles violating the traffic law'.
    The timing could be better, this time of the year even the policemen leave town ...
  • As if that's not enough the governor, in a seperate speech, warned:
    'Kep Chuktema, the Phnom Penh city governor, reminded the Chinese-Cambodian and the Vietnamese-Cambodian population in Phnom Penh that, during the Chinese-Vietnamese New Year, if they drink or they are drunk, they shouldn’t drive in order to avoid traffic accidents to themselves and to others.
    That mean's that all others (the real Chinese / Vietnamese and Khmer, basically 95% of the population) are free to drink and drive! especially during Chinese / Vietnamese New Year!
  • And his comment on this?
    'Ten workers were injured when a factory owner’s car slammed into a group of protestors at the order of a local commune chief, labor representatives said Thursday. ... The unnamed driver moved the car into a crowd of workers demonstrating over annual bonuses and layoffs, representatives said'.
    Perfectly legal?
  • The (daily / deadly ) horror?
    'Four people riding on a motorcycle died instantly at the scene when a Hyno truck crashed the motorbike and dragged 20km away until it got burnt'.
    Only in Cambodia can a motorcycle accident result in 4 dead! And the following?
    'A car, which contained luxurious timber, ran over and killed a three wheel motorbike driver at 4:30 on 31 Jan 2008 in Kampong Siem district’s Ou Svay commune. The three wheel motorbike also contained a big wood'.
  • Travel updates? Only good news? From Khmer 440 forum the road to Koh Kong is nearing completion , however:
    'The good news is that BIG buses are now travelling over the Sre Ambel bridge and the Ta Tai bridge . [ the two end bridges] The bad news is that travel time has not been reduced as it still takes time to transfer to another big bus at the second bridge [ Andong Tek ] and third bridge [ Trapang Ru ]'.
    And the 'dancing' roads for which Cambodia is (in?)famous? On Monday February 4 2008, Cambodian Daily reported
    'Road 5 from Poiept to Siem Reap being Rebuilt'
    This being an understatement, it is on the verge of being rebuilt since last used as a minefield by the Khmer Rouge. Since then however nothing has happened, turning the road into a national shame On the plus side however it is now any tourist's highlight if they take this section. That's in a negative sense then. Back to the article, the road is to be completed by October, which must seem doubtful, as from June onwards there are heavy rains.
    'Saing Savath, director of Banteay Meanchey province's public works and transportation department said he expected the road to attract more tourists [why? Where will all the touristic potholes have gone]. "Before they [the toursits] were bored [certainly not bored] and tired with this road because it had many potholes" '.
    More questions seem to appear, the road from Poipet to Siem Reap is 150 km however the section being rebuilt is only
    '105 km'.
    Furthermore the road from Poipet to Sisophon is road number 5 (distance 50 km), from Sisophon the road number is 6 (distance 100km). So what is being rebuilt? A deliberate confusion to syphon off money?

Saturday, February 02, 2008

Chasing Cars, Cambodian Style, February 2 2008

  • Not much on internet the last week, however yesterday's (Feb.1, 2008) Cambodian Daily had a couple of traffic related articles. The big news is that highway 32, the road connecting Bokor Mountain (to be, but currently in ruins) Resort, is off-limits while it is being reconstructed (and privatized (?) in the process). Sokha Hotel Group
    'estimates it will take around 2,5 years to complete'.
    Reportedly trekking up the mountain is becoming all the rage.
  • 'Traffic Injuries deaths up 45% in November'.
    A yell from again yesterday's Cambodian Daily. However the article then points to the fact that the 45% rise, is in comparison to October, the year to year rise was 18%, which seems very much in line with the growth in traffic overall. The article also reports
    'that the number of motorbike drivers reporting that they wear safety helmets increased from 3% to 7% from October to November'.
    A not so trueful statement, as it concerns victims of accidents. In general a look on today's roads (in Phnom Penh) would reveal that this percentage is 25-40%; it implies that helmet wearers are also safer drivers.
  • Only if you are important, does an accident make the newspaper. An executive's car overtaking while a car is coming from the other side ...
  • China will invest a packet (55 million $US) in a road to Ratanakiri; no strings attached?
  • And now for something completly different:
    'Motor taxi driver injures a robber. ... The robber used a cleaver to rob the motor taxi driver. They scuffled each other. Meanwhile, the motorbike owner took the cleaver from the robber and attacked him back, police said. The victim known as Trei Sopheak, 35, got severe injured seven times in his neck, head and stomach. While both were fighting, police intervened on time and sent them to the hospital.'
  • Motorcycle touring Cambodia? 'Don't look back in Angkor'. A pity the Chinese and private companies will ruin the future for these tourists. Which kind? The kind that like this:
    'The two boys and their bikes are totally covered in mud and I suspect, as I try to kick-start my Honda XR250, that I will be soon, given the road ahead is a barely passable series of potholed broken tracks'.
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