Crossing Cambodia

Monday, April 21, 2008

Chasing Cars, Back to work after Khmer New year

Yes, it's back to the organized chaos called Phnom Penh. Can chaos be organized? Time to get used to non-working traffic lights, absence of foot paths, inconsiderate drivers, anarchy, lazy traffic police, useless new plans to stem the adversity of growth, etc., etc. But what has happened in the meantime?

The Khmer New Year leads to some different types of traffic news, i.e. how many road deaths and how to get to ... / how is this or that road?
  • Starting with the former, over at Khmer 440, a discussion on the road to Bokor mountain. On 17 April:
    'As an update, the road up Bokor remains closed except for group trips organized by local operators such as Sok Lim tours. As mentioned in other topics, the road was opened to all during Chinese New Year. I had hoped that the same would happen during Khmer New Year and I confirmed with a local source that this was indeed the case.
    However, when I visited on 2 separate days during Khmer New Year on a dirt bike, I was not allowed up. .... They said cars are allowed up during the holidays but not motorbikes or even bicycles. They also said they had orders from Phnom Penh and that this was due to people having accidents lately'.
    On the eighteenth:
    ' The road is now pretty good and I'd say wouldn't be too hard for a Camry'.
    Yes, well CC went up by Camry on Saturday, a breeze I would say. But we had to rent the Camry as a local tour operator insisted it was not allowed to drive in private cars, which was clearly not the case. Lots of other Camry's were there, with PP number plates. Maybe there are different rules for foreigners?
The first part of the road up Bokor is under construction, the rest is very easy going.
  • Sure, the road to Bokor is unpaved but no potholes, this despite what is mentioned in this article in the Phnom Penh Post (April 18 - May1):
    'The road - currently a muddy, pot-holed nightmare - will be enlarged and sealed at a cost of some $20 million'.
    The authors of this piece probably never visited the place at least not - currently -.
    In all, the article is a nice piece of PR for the Sokimex / Sokha Hotels. Take for instance the sentences:
    'The French colonial buildings will be preserved'
    ' "We will knock down the casino", the owner says'.
    No criticism. The Cambodia Daily for the last few weeks has been advertising for someone to come up with a 'master development plan', makes you wonder? They also mention Sokha projects in Kirirom, where there are none and give the floor to lamentations on Sihanoukville's airport: 'Sihanoukville is dead [?] because of the lack of airport development'. That seems a bit harsh especially to those tourists having problems finding rooms during December / January. The last thing you can call Sihanoukville, is that it's 'dead'. And international flights are coming Sihanoukville's way, Bangkok Airways not only states it will do so, but actually is in the process of buying aircraft for this purpose, at least according to the Bangkok Post on the eighteenth of April.
    And what to think of the sentence:
    'the new development can capitalize on the long standing reputation of Bokor as a high-end gambling retreat'.
    Is this tongue in cheek? The last 30 years has seen no gambling at all, what a long standing reputation! Well, as long as Phnom Penh Posts' pages are full. Let's hope when and if they become daily the quality standards will appreciate.
  • The how to get there part. Khmer 440 again leading the way, this time on the best bus service:
    'We (the Mrs and I) find Mekong Express to be the least worst bus service',
    which seems to sum up this collection of bus horror stories. The small print of your ticket says that your onwards trip to the hotel is a sham. Other experiences:
    'We hopped on the [Sorya] bus in Snooky, the A/C wasn't working, they had to jump start the bus'.
    'I've blacklisted Capitol Bus after the last debacle [full story on the forum]'.
    'Also cross off Mekong Express and Paramount on the Siem Reap route anyway'.
    That does not leave the traveler with much alternatives. Then again isn't that part of the lure of going to far off and exotic locations, bus trips from hell?
  • The neverending story of getting to
    'the city of Solla Solllew,
    on the banks of the beautiful Wah-Hoo,
    where the never have troubles!
    At least very few'.
    [taken from Dr Suess' 'I had trouble getting to Solla Sollew'].

    But of course Crossing Cambodia means Siem Reap. There are encouraging sounds that the road is improving on the Siem Reap - border side, but the border rip offs remain:
    'Editor's Note: Although this traveler did not seem too fussed by the money exchange scam, or this pre-paid trip in general, I would point out that the fact remains he was 1.) ripped off by $22 on the exchange scam, 2.) Had he purchased a visa (I can only wonder what lies they told the other passengers) he would have been ripped off by another $20, and 3.) Although a taxi is indeed a better option, they did manage to extract another $6+ from him to ride in it. So the overcharge was $28+ and could have been nearly $50. This is I think, evidence enough of what I've been saying for years, that these pre-paid transport services should be avoided at all times'.
    Recent images of the road at danbrew.
Then the accidents:
  • Khmer mentions:
    'According to temporary report from authority and ground traffic officers, there are 14 people died and nearly 100 injured in traffic accidents during three days of Khmer New Year 2008 from April 13-15'.
    Phnom Penh Post (April 18-May 1, 2008) mentions :
    'Eight killed, 21 injured in Phnom Penh'. Substantially more people were killed on Phnom Penh roads this New Year, ...'.
    They also refer to RTAVIS statistics mentioning that last year the number of deaths were 74 in total, whereas Crossing Cambodia reported just 54, some difference. Thailand's Nation reports preliminary figures of 324 deaths (up), from Lao no news.
    Elsewhere a more detailed account of an accident, as a high profile singer was involved. Besides describing the accident and the number of deceased, the odd article ends on an upbeat 'note':
    'Sok Pisey has regained her conscience, and she now smiles to her visitors'.
    More from
    'The car’s driver drove like the wind from Phnom Penh to Siem Reap town. After arrive home from local pagoda during Khmer New Year, the victims gathered on the side road on the left. Then the car ran over and killed them [five people at 'least']'.
  • Today's (April 21, 2008) Cambodia Daily keeps us up to date with the villagers vs. quarry battle:
    'Takeo provincial officials Friday asked [not ordered?] the quarrying company to pave a 6 km road in Bati district that villagers blocked for weeks to prevent company trucks from kicking up too much dust, an official said. ICB [the company] agreed to pave the road and then collect toll fees to cover the cost, Tnort commune chief Heng Hong said Sunday. However, ICB manager You Kheang said his company would not pave the road and that it was the provincial rural development department's responsibility to do so. "If it does not pave it, we will discuss it again," You Kheang said, adding that his company is now using a different road for its routes'.
    Well, the question rises what was decided at the meeting? And does the 'different road' now affect different villagers? A case study of ineffective governance.
  • Furthermore in today's Cambodian Daily, another example of good governance:
    'Preah Vihear provincial police chief Mao Pov on Friday denied reports quoting him as saying that police shot at two men on April 13, killing one and missing the other when an altercation arose over how fast the victims were driving. Mao Pov said he had been misquoted and that the police did not shoot at the two men and were not responsible for the death'.
    The small article goes on about how the police know of nothing, which seems at complete opposite ends to the 'truth'. A provincial coordinator for human rights adds that police were implicated, they brought the victim to the hospital and had paid the deceased family $1,000 in compensation. But they are not involved!
    What happens if you run a red light in Preah Vihear? One way ticket to Baghdad? Wrong! The answer is nothing, they don't have traffic lights in the province, barely have anything that resembles a road come to think of it.
  • Phnom Penh Post (April 18 - May 1, 2008) 'Police Blotter' selected entries:
    'April 3 Mom Phearom, 25, was arrested and the motorbike he was riding seized, after he and two associates [?] allegedly robbed a traveler of his motorbike, 10 minutes earlier'.
    'April 7: one of three young men accused of tying wire at head height across a street was arrested after police came across the wire intended to topple motorists by catching them by the neck. Motorbikes, once separated from their rider could then be taken'.
    'April 7: Two men suspected of involvement in the murder and robbery of a women on October 4, 2007 were captured by police in Battambang province. police said the woman had been killed for her motorbike, phone and jewellery. They arrested her boyfriend'.
    Well, fine boyfriend she had. Surprisingly, all above were arrested but not shot. Supposedly they were not speeding ....
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