Crossing Cambodia

Tuesday, March 25, 2008

Chasing Cars, March 25, 2008

Not much to mention, but here goes:
  • On Khmer 440 forum a discussion on an alternative highway code or more like an anti-highway code. Furthermore the advantages of having a motorbike over a car in Cambodian expat context.
  • A typical Cambodian accident in Sihanoukville on the sixteenth:
    'Two men, who drove their motorcycles in the contrast direction, died on Thursday on the national road 4, in Sihanoukville’s Preynob commune. One suspected that after the motorbikes crashed, a truck ran over and killed them, Preynob police said. The victim: Rem Loem, 26, died after sending to a hospital and He Tha, 30, died instantly at the scene. The truck went away after the accident, police added'.
  • Crossing Cambodia commented not so long ago briefly on an article about the number of official car dealers in country. Now a new kid on the block: Mitsubishi. To get free publicity on the occasion of the opening they gifted one of the most senior ministers not one, but two pickups! Worth $ 65,000.
    'As a souvenir'.
    But Mitsubishi added
    'they were not bribes or intended to buy influence'.
    As there is no corruption law giving these 'gifts' is allowed! Nguon Nhel, Cambodia's ruling party (CPP) first vice president:
    'The law states that giving and receiving bribes is illegal, but they were giving a souvenir openly in the public. It is not corruption'.
    The minister in question hung up his phone the Cambodia Daily (March 19, 2008) journalist.

Tuk-tuks awaiting business at Phnom Penh's International Airport: taxi's are in business and tuk-tuks not. All are not the common motor and chariot style but have been imported (at considerable expense?) from India.

Tuesday, March 18, 2008

Chasing Cars, Cambodian Style, Tuesday 18 March 2008

So what's up in traffic related Cambodia?
  • We had confirmation that trains are still running via
    'Battambang Province: A 28-year-old mouse hunter died immediately on a rail way on 15 March 2008 in Mong Russey district’s Mong commune. The train ran over his head while he was sleeping on the rail way, police said. The victim, Sok Kiet, always hunted mice at night. Mong Russey district police Chief Kit Heang concluded that the victim fell asleep on the rail way'.
    Comprehensible? Can you call someone who catches mice a 'hunter'?
  • The key to winning the upcoming elections?
    'He [Keo Chuktema, governor of Phnom Penh] said that for the CPP [Cambodia's evergreen ruling elitist party] to win in Phnom Penh, he will start repairing as many of the new and old roads as possible, starting from now on'.
    Why would he need to repair new roads?
  • More electioneering: the prime minister all of sudden notices that all and sundry are asking for hand outs:
    'Hun Sen said that, near Chhlong district [Kratie province], there is a control station, and in Kampong Cham, near the digging by the paved road, there is one place where bribes are being asked also. .... He said that roads were built for orderly traffic, but these cops turn them into a bribe-request location instead. He said that TVK broadcast about this issue every day, but, they don’t watch it, and even the newspapers are reporting about these control stations, but the government officials do not read about them. ... Hun Sen added: “When the high-ranking officials go down to inspect, their cars are blaring the siren sound, so that when those who set up the control stations hear about it, they just took off because they are mobile control stations.”'
    And the PM himself, he has no blaring siren?
  • The dead are rising? At least that's this article's caption:
    'Traffic Deaths Rising Steeply: Group'
    They of course mean increasing, but what is the 'group'? It's Handicap International:
    'At least 125 people died and 576 were seriously injured in traffic accidents nationwide in December 2007, Handicap International reported this week. This is a 32 percent increase compared to the same period in 2006, the group said. ... Handicap International spokesman Sem Panhavuth said about 83 percent of the victims died because of head injuries. Of those who died, only four were wearing a helmet, he said'.
    The government then construes the figures:
    'Tem Proseur, director of the Phnom Penh traffic police, said that in in the capital only about 80 percent of motorcycle drivers wear helmets'.
    If you look around Phnom Penh roads, it's 80% that are not wearing helmets! So what are 'we' going to do about it?
    'In order to decrease the traffic fatalities, the government has formed a traffic safety committee, which includes members from 20 ministries, said Chum Iek, secretary of state for the Ministry of Public Works. ...The committee is working to advocate traffic safety to students, as well as strengthening law enforcement. The committee hopes to work with non-government agencies to educate people on traffic laws, he said'.
    Isn't it time that someone educates the government?
  • Cambodia's most 'aggressive' (they phoned Crossing Cambodia a couple of weeks ago from Thailand asking me to attend a 'meeting') insurance company, Infinity, has had to retract a statement made in an advertisement on motorcycle insurance: apparently they can't substantiate that daily 40 motorcycles are stolen in Phnom Penh. This according to today's (March 8, 2008) Cambodia Daily. The governor of Phnom Penh is quoted:
    ' "Have you seen the ad? ... Losing [stolen he means] 40 motorbikes per day is too much" '.
    The official figures for February were just 3. But probably they mean those that were reported stolen, not those they are stolen unreported. According to on February 3 this happened:
    'Witnesses said that as the suffered man had his motorbike filled, two men riding an old C100 Korea motorcycle came nearby and pointed handgun at the victim and took his motor. The robbers left their old motorbike at the scene'.
    On the 26th:
    'Two thieves with handgun rode 2007 serried Smash motorcycle to run over a man and pointed the gun to take his motorbike safely'.
    Was this just it for February? Crossing Cambodia thinks not. On Khmer 440 there is a forum entry on the same article. Was MarkLathams motorcycle included in the Feb. 08 tally?
  • A fracas occurred at the airport taxi stand / parking on Monday. Both taxi drivers as well as tuk-tuk drivers want to earn an extra buck at the expense of the other. The airports solution is to get passengers out of the airport by bus!
  • The vintage cars have made it. The good news:
    ' "The road (from Siem Reap to Phnom Penh) is good," so that the vehicles entered the capital city around half an hour earlier than the scheduled noon time'.
    The bad news:
    'costing each participant some 46,000 U.S. dollars'.
    !!!! Have they figured in the rise in petrol prices yet?
  • A blogger finds Phnom Penh traffic confusing:
    'Basically, you can do as you please. Traffic rules can be bent or twisted in any way or direction, just like what contortionists to their bodies'.
    Now that being the case, why is one of the photo's from a couple of years back?

Thursday, March 13, 2008

Chasing Cars, Cambodian Style, Friday the 14th of March

  • Not so much this week. Over last weekend there was the motorcross.
  • And coming week there is a vintage car rally:
    'The rally is a slow ride between Kuala Lumpur and Hanoi, stopping at the most elegant hotels along the way and costing each participant some 46,000 U.S. dollars.

    The cars, driven by a diverse mixture of nationalities, have already wound through Thai and Lao valleys and are currently rattling across Cambodia's scenic plains before entering Vietnam'.
  • Safety issues: somewhere in this weeks Cambodia Daily was a reference to the number of causalities in February which showed a rise, which the authorities then blamed on Chinese New Year. But the reality: just a few weeks ago the same authorities were backslapping and congratulating themselves as :
    'According to Cambodia Daily reported that “during the Chinese New Year accidents in 2008 dropped down because of some people understanding and obeying the traffic law"'.
    A dispute? Quickly click to for official confirmation! But despite a surprising amount of uploads on their website, their statistics are still only of last December.
    More intrigue if you believe the Vietnamese. They report a drop in deaths in Vietnam during Tet due to the compulsory helmet rules.
  • So what's on road safety wise? An announcement on the Road Safety Week / Khmer New Year Campaign with one of the objectives being:' Extend the responsibility to the road user - think before you start the vehicle'. A photo competition. And a number of training courses. And in depth report on the UNICEF report concerning child deaths? Nah!
    'Road accidents are the second-biggest killer of children in countries where traffic is typically congested and chaotic and laws are often ignored. The highest number of traffic deaths occur in the teen years. "Road traffic is a major, major issue in countries like Vietnam, Laos and Cambodia," said Hisashi Ogawa, regional adviser for healthy settings and environment at the World Health Organization's Western Pacific office. "It's not just kids on bikes, but also kids on the streets," said Ogawa, who was not involved in the study'.
  • With the increasing price of fuel quite a few people will be thinking before starting the vehicle. Odd that it's Xinhua doing the report, nothing in the Cambodian press.
  • Khmer 440 have a poll on Cambodia's traffic police: how much should you pay? (ongoing)

Friday, March 07, 2008

Chasing cars, cambodian style, 7 March, 2008

  • Do you sometimes wonder why there are all these sirens blaring? So does Hun Sen:
    '... following the siren sounding of cars traveling in this area which interrupted Hun Sen’s speech during the distribution of diplomas for students at the Royal University of Phnom Penh on 05 March'.
    The solution, no sirens please, but only on the Russian boulevard:
    'Prime minister Hun Sen ordered the Phnom Penh city governor to install signs prohibiting the sounding of car siren along the Russian Federation Blvd, between the Tuol Kok stop light and the hospital for monks'.
  • As tomorrow is International Women's day, Crossing Cambodia has included some relevant (?) info:
    'A Cambodian man convicted of smacking a female motorist's bottom was handed a one-year suspended jail sentence and his friend was sentenced to the same term in absentia, a court official said on Wednesday'.
    His friend was luckier:
    '... Theara's friend, Khun Pheakdey, 18, had been ordered to pay compensation of $350 and released after already serving five months in jail for his moment of indiscretion'.
    Justice served?
  • Yet another primer on Phnom Penh traffic? Khmer440's Surviving and Thriving on Phnom Penh's Roads complete with forum comments. Excerpts from the article:
    ' ... Sometimes it can seem like every erratic numbskull in the land is swarming around you on the roads, trying to deal with their inner demons. And those are just the cars. ... the default technique for crossing a busy junction consists of a) increasing the acceleration b) hoping for the best and c) flying across the junction with a lingering blast of the horn, ...'
    Their contribution to International Women's Day:
    'Most Khmer women drive their cars with all the agility and awareness of a partially sighted witless amputee. Remember this.'
    And it continues:
    'Drive slowly. Don’t go native and copy the locals by driving down the wrong side of Monivong at 100 kph whilst making a phone call'.
    And the forum response? Bar one:
    'The adherence to road rules, such as keeping to your side of the road is atrocious; drivers in newer cars and 4x4’s seem to think they have a right to stop on the wrong side of the road at traffic light to allow them to jump ahead of other vehicles, mostly motto’s. Strangely people accept it and I have yet to see an accident as a result of this behavior'.
    'Hi Admin,
    This article is RIDICULOUS and INACCURATE.
    It's WAY too flattering in it's assessment of Khmer drivers'.
    Cheers to you too mate. Playboy:
    'I am with the ugly old white chick on this, the average driver on the roads of Cambodia has the motoring abilities of a blind chimpanzee smoking crack at the wheel'.
    'This was a very enjoyable article. Thanks'.
    And finally MarkLatham adds (from Tico heaven!):
    'Driving a car here is a breeze really, ...'.
    Basically getting the picture?
  • More blah, blah. Today's (March 7, 2008) Cambodia Daily mentions how Sihanoukville airport has raked in some cash (35 million $ US) so as to be able to finance an expansion of it's runway to service aircraft which are not coming. Cambodia's tourism minister said that the expansion
    'will help expand Sihanoukville [where to?] and boost its position as a destination and travel hub'.
  • Meanwhile Cambodia Daily's bi-weekly competitor the Phnom Penh Post in it's latest issue mentions the problems authorities are having expanding another runway, that of highway no.1 out of the city. This pathetic highway has received some Japanese funding, as the number of buses on this route (to Saigon) are forcing all the Camry's onto the hardshoulder!
    Anyway Cambodia's contribution in this is to resettle citizens who believe living on a road to be a better existence than living a safer distance away. Why can't they just send out a decree saying that everyone living 10-15m from the meridian of a national highway should clear off and anything in this area will be cleared within x time?
    So the resettlers are of course short changed and the government has got lots of claims to settle from 'resettlers' who of course live somewhere else. What do they call this?
    NGO's are crying foul:
    'previous experience has shown road projects are having a devastating impacts on the livelihoods of local communities due to inadequate compensation and resettlement practices'.
    The worst is they are probably correct!
  • Do you get tired of reading this blog? Imagine jotting everything down! The end is near!

    Yesterday's (March 6, 2008) Cambodia Daily has a lead article on the car sales business in Phnom Penh. Basically there are just two major dealers, Toyota and Ford with Ssangyong a new entrant. And then there are a lot of independents which cater to a diverse melee of tastes.
    It also mentions the number of registered vehicles (which is different from the actual owners, but how, is not explained) has risen from just over 9,500 in 2003 to more than 173,000 thousand now! That's a 1500% rise in just five years.
That's it for this week! Have fun celebrating Women's Day!

Thursday, March 06, 2008

Public vs. private

The perpetual battle between private and public is coming back to the forefront. Roads are a classic example of a public space needed and required for everybody. However, Crossing Cambodia in the past few weeks has mentioned a road (to Bokor) being upgraded by private companies to stimulate private investment though it is unclear whether or not the previously public road will become private and if so what the fees might be. Discussed as well was the use of roads and sidewalks as parking space for successful companies' customers. Then there is the privatisation of the railways which again privatises a public investment with unknown returns. Yesterday's (Wednesday March 5, 2008) Cambodia Daily a Letter to the Editor harks forth on the same topic.
'Return public sidewalks to use for public. Provide the public with a smooth and peaceful walking area please!'
It refers to a TV programme which highlighted Phnom Penh traffic problems and how the government was dealing with this issue.
'However the program did not raise much about the issue of messy and disorderly sidewalks, which need to be addressed if we are to reduce traffic jams and beautify Phnom Penh. Homeowners, restaurants or hotels overtake most sidewalks.They try to own sidewalks. .... They park their vehicles on the sidewalk. ... Pedestrians always have to walk on the street to avoid stuff that has been placed or built on the sidewalk. Or walkers have to maneuver up and down the sidewalk in order to proceed. Why doesn't the Phnom Penh municipal authority do something to solve this problem? ... The municipal authority should push for public parking lots and no longer allow people to park arbitrarily, especially on narrow streets. ... Kimsan Chantara, Phnom Penh'
As if to compensate for that, 100 ramps to allow access for people in wheelchairs have been constructed on the west side of Norodom Boulevard. Note that Norodom is probably the road that has the least obstructions on the sidewalk as it's the alley for all dignitaries to parade themselves.
Paid by the businesses along Norodom? No (in Cambodia,it is customary for riparians to fund the construction of sidewalks) By the government then? No, but funding came from a 'semi-autonomous government body, the National Centre for Disabled Persons'.
A Handicap International spokespersons applauds the efforts:
'officials are on the right track. ... He added that as much as 8 percent of traffic accidents in 2006 involved pedestrians, highlighting the need for accessible sidewalks.'
Well, let's take a closer look at what they have done. Actually it's pretty amazing: at certain driveway's and side streets they have taken out the street stones and made ramps by applying cement. However, these ramps are sometimes quite steep, certainly not uniform. What's more, some side streets have them, others don't. Not very continuous. Crossing Cambodia included a couple of photo's:
The above example shows a ramp but after a couple of meters the sidewalk is blocked by cars, is it the World Bank that is using the sidewalk as a parking place? The next photo is even clearer, great ramp, but of no use!

Despite the sincerity of the project, one must ask the question why the heck initiate this if you can not ensure that the intended solution to the problem can not be obtained due to other reasons! All-in-all a good (i.e. bad) example of how the authorities muddle onwards trying to address the problems but never solving them!

Tuesday, March 04, 2008

Chasing Cars, Cambodian Style 5 March 2008

Most updates are just morsels found in other (blog) sites:
  • Expat Advisory Services dishes this out:
    'Commenting on increasing traffic burdens, Dr. [Gavin, who 'has lived in Cambodia for 15 years'] Scott is puzzled by the apparent lack of urban planning, "prestige projects will congest the streets with traffic and sewage. Immediate acquisition of status and money take precedence over long term planning".'
  • Cambodia Calling has a posting on roughly the same theme as highlighted last week on this site:
    'No Public Transport. Why is there no public transport within towns in Cambodia? Not even in the capital Phnom Penh. There cannot be many cities the size of Phnom Penh without public transport. ... It's probably harder than it seems to get a public transport system right and people the world over complain about their country's public transport. But we have to start somewhere'.
  • Cambodia Calling also mentions Stan Kahn who has a number of passionate plea's for different attitudes to traffic over on Khmer 440. According to that site he now has put up shop in Kampot. Relevance?
    'Meanwhile the train should be running again this August. It won't be as fast as the taxi but it will be a pleasure'.
    Don't count too much on it!
  • More trains on this comment from (DaS) to a link from here which was originally a link to another web-site, which was a translation of , etc., etc. :
    'I rode the train two weeks ago.
    From Phnom Penh there’s only one active line, to Battambang. It leaves every Saturday morning at 6:20 am.
    I wanted to go to B’Bang but boredom made me get off in Pursat. Nice little town to spend an afternoon.
    Besides wood I didn’t see much cargo, and although all seats were taken (two cars) it was hardly crowded. No wonder, it’s unreliable, slow and relatively expensive. It was cool though to see how a heap of wood was loaded from a bamboo train onto and into the last passenger car, while on the move. I wanted to take pictures, but one of four train conductors said no. I wonder why…'
  • More on public transport. The Mirror (Vol. 12, No. 550) publishes an article from Neak Cheat Niyum. Apprarently the ban on big buses in the city center is back on, but only from the end of this year:
    'To solve the problems of daily traffic congestions in Phnom Penh due to the growth of the population and the increasing number of vehicles, the governor of Phnom Penh, Mr. Kep Chuk Tema issued a strict announcement: to prohibit large passenger buses from operating on the roads of Phnom Penh by the end of 2008'.
    To solve the problem, buses will halt near the city perimeter, however no mention is made of how passengers would then get to their final destination. Has the municipality ever thought of setting up a bus station?

    On another note, the municipality also stressed the following:
    'In particular, the disrespect of traffic laws is one of the main causes of traffic congestions'.
    Despite this long overdue admission, there may be new ones lurking.

    Yesterday I travelled down Monivong at 4 in the afternoon, but it was far from smooth; KFC have opened their first chicken bar and the clientiele apparently prefer to come by car, but KFC or their local reps (read investors) never thought about where their clients would need to park their cars. Just block the road! Increasingly, succesful businesses (as well as expanding markets) such as Mobitel and Lucky's supermarket are encroaching public roads to use for the clients who are allowed to park, double even triple park their cars. Can't the municipality do something with this?
  • Kampuchea Crossings highlight an Asialife March 2008 article (not available online) on probably Cambodia's one and only female moto-dup driver.
    'When she attempted to work in the nearby areas she found that fellow Khmers – even the women – were more comfortable taking the traditional male motodup than going with her. Because foreigners are open to the idea of a female driving a mototaxi she is able to get more business there'.
    It's a very good article and gives an insiders view of Khmer women taking up 'male' professions and the strength of single mothers in face of adversity.
  • More background on the expressway to Phnom Penh from Can Tho. Mystified, so is Crossing Cambodia and the Cambodian government as well:
    'Kem Borey [director of the Transport Ministry's Road Infrastructure Department] said the highway will run from Can Tho, through An Giang province before the final stretch of approximately 120 km from the border to Phnom Penh. He added that the final route of this last stretch has not been finalized but would either follow National Road 2 through Takeo province, National Road 21 through Takeo province, or comprise a new road traversing Kampot province'.
  • Softening the Khmer from the other side is Thailand:
    'After having met with Cambodian Leader Hun Sen, Mr. Samak said Thailand’s assistance to Cambodia would be beneficial to both countries, especially the highway 68 construction project with an additional budget on top of the 1.4 billion baht (US$43.7 million) already allocated.

    The road will connect Thailand’s Surin province to Cambodia’s Siem Reap, and seen as an opportunity to boost the tourism industry in the region'.
  • KI Media highlight a photo reportage (from the bureau's of AP) on the height of the petrol price in Cambodia. Oddly though, the price they mention is 4,600 riel, which is the amount charged at the petrol pump not at the road stalls which are the subject of all the photo's; petrol at these stalls is still less than 4,000 riel!
Related Posts with Thumbnails