Crossing Cambodia

Thursday, April 10, 2008

Chasing Cars, Khmer New Year 2008 style

  • Some would forget that this week is part of the global effort to ensure road safety. This was passed off in Phnom Penh by a great celebration in the Olympic Stadium. At the pow-wow, Chreang Sophan, Deputy Governor of the Phnom Penh Municipality, representing the Municipal Governor Kep Chuk Tema, stated amongst others that:
    'Responding to these issues [increasing numbers of accidents] under the smart [?] leadership of Samdech Akkak Moha Senapadei Dekchor Hun Sen, the Prime Minister of the Kingdom of Cambodia, the Phnom Penh Municipality will be implementing road constructions and road repair plans by paving roads in four districts by the end of 2008, and other plans will be implemented in three other districts in the suburbs'.
    If this is the government's response, then clearly they are in serious need of (re-)education. Furthermore:
    'The deputy municipal governor also called on citizens who travel in the city to drive carefully, and firmly practice the measures passed in the land traffic law. Especially those who use motorcycles and bicycles must wear helmets. ... He appealed to all citizens, the users of vehicles and the users of roads countrywide, to respect and to strictly implement the measures stated in the Cambodian Land Traffic Law, ...'.
    Clearly this official fails to grasp the reality of the traffic law, i.e. bicycle drivers do not require helmets! In a summation of the most important measures of the now old traffic law, this official fails to signify that traffic police are not to accept 'donations'. Practically the only time these curb huggers get into action is to accept donations from passing trucks. Strictly implement?
  • Cambodia Daily (April 8, 2008) also comments on this 'celebration'.
    'Road Safety Week, which kicked off Sunday, aims to raise awareness and reduce traffic awareness and reduce traffic accidents in the days during and around the three day holiday. ... Sun Chanthol [Minister of Public Works and Transport] urged travelers to keep from speeding and overloading vehicles. He also called on motorcyclists to wear safety helmets and for drivers to follow new traffic laws'.
    Oddly enough (if you read next item) it quotes RTAVIS statistics:
    '.... 4 percent of drivers wear helmets'.
    A misquote / failure to understand statistics?
  • What does the Cambodian donor community do, except financing such nonsense?
    'The president of Handicap International Belgium [HIB] stated that the topic of this Week of Land Traffic Safety, held for the second time in Cambodia, was to cooperate to reduce traffic accidents through the respect of the traffic law'.
    Cooperate! Luckily HIB are saved by a recent update on the roadsafetycambodia site concerning the use of helmets. Clearly, it states that the law should have been implemented as of Sept. 1 last year, but compulsory helmet usage is not being enforced (as are none of the other articles of the law).

    Here at Crossing Cambodia we have commented on the fact that only 25-35% of the moto's use helmets. This is validated by this research which concluded that the rate of helmet usage was about 28% with a variation of 25-34%. So much for their research, they could just of looked at this site (and saved some money / time).

    There was some variation though. On some roads outside Phnom Penh, up to 50% of the traffic participants had helmets on. Crossing Cambodia could also state that female drivers also more often use helmets. Their main conclusion:
    'Through out the survey, in 2008 we found that the number of helmet wearing increase in all surveyed national road and in average 8.66% increase. This number will rapidly increase if the new traffic law was respect by the people and the traffic police start to enforce the law and the traffic police take action on the people who don’t wear helmet'.
    Now where have we heard this before? Possibly the main donor of this organization could pay more attention to enforcement than 'cooperation'.
  • In Bangkok, red light dodging has lead the authorities to institute cameras at more than 30 intersections. That's what today's (10 April 2008) Bangkok Post mentions on it's front page.
    'During a trial more than 2,000 vehicles went through red lights in a week at 15 intersections where cameras had been installed.'
    Goes to show, that the only gain, in traffic culture, is pain! Hello Cambodia,are we paying attention?
  • A comparison with Iraq! Finally, Cambodia has something to be proud of. Or not? The Cambodia Daily of sometime this week reports on an ox-cart which was rigged to a bomb so as to injure/kill it's owner!
    'At about 6 am (Monday, April 7, 2008), an activist for local rights group Adhoc in Kampong Chhnang province, was about to move his oxcart in Khlong Popoak commune, when he discovered two large recoilless rifle shells tied to a small trigger under the cart'.
    It could have caused an explosion covering 30 square meters!
  • Cambodia Daily (7 April 2008) headlines: 'Cops among four arrested on extortion claims':
    'The four [a district police official, a provincial tax officer and two money collectors] allegedly operated a checkpoint on a 7 km dirt road taking money from fish sellers and drivers since 2004 [!]. They apparently took [extorted is meant] up to $50 per vehicle. A local company received permission to collect tolls [read bribes] from 2004 to 2020, but not until repairs the company had promised [ah promises are not meant to be kept] are done'.
    Only now has action been undertaken, does this have anything to do with the coming elections except pure co-incidence?
  • Innovative ways to ask drivers to be more human? 'No Horn Day' for instance in Mumbai. For those of us who fail to grasp English, it has nothing to do with sex.
    'Mumbai is very horny. ... Everybody honks because the other is honking. It’s an atavistic instinct it seems. I will be thought of as weak if I don’t honk. They honk when they get free roads and honk of course when there is a red light. Of what use is the horn when the Red light is speaking to you. Why pressurize? But I am an old man at 30 closing my ears at different junctions. Everyday I invariably tell the auto I am in to not honk. Only to be stared back in hatred. Drive, they ask back in silence. Drive in this mess you elite bastard with weak ears, they seem to ask me. I ask them if they don’t hate all this honking? They smile back. Occupational hazard…why take it so seriously! The world honks and so do I. So will you, once you take the wheel'.
    Well, things change:
    'On Monday, officially declared No Horn Day, the Mumbai traffic police, in a fell swoop, fined thousands of drivers for violating honking rules in the city. The count up to 6 pm was 6,195 cases.
    Beginning Monday night, the cops plan to crack down further and prosecute offenders under the Environment Protection Act, which has far more stringent penalties: this act, which can be used in cases ranging from bursting firecrackers or blasting loudspeakers after 10 pm to honking at night, has a maximum fine of Rs 1 lakh depending on the severity of the offence.

    "This will prove an effective deterrent to errant drivers," joint commissioner of police Hemant Karkare told TOI. "However, this move is at a preliminary stage. We need some more preparation before we go the whole hog".

    Karkare declared that the crackdown against shrill and reverse horns, unnecessary honking and honking in silence zones would go on. When a journalist mentioned that SRK felt that No Horn Day should continue for a week, he riposted, "It's not one day or one week. This will now continue permanently".
Minor news, a round up:
  • Another motorbike stolen while simultaneously shooting it's owner.
  • A bus kills a cyclist, who forgot to look over his shoulder.
  • Connect Cambodia (with?) is/are astounded by the 'traffic sprawl'.
  • Cambodia's PM knows what his citizens are thinking:
    'For Hun Sen, there are several reasons which explained this low participation. First of all, the Phnom Penh city dwellers “are fed up with the traffic jams caused by these demonstrations.”'
    Considering there are hardly 'these demonstrations' taking place (unless in front of KFC on Monivong, where demonstrations of lack of consideration take place on a daily basis) and traffic grid lock is expanding daily, maybe it might pay to get traffic lights to function and to enforce the need for motorists to stop when the light is red!
  • An older article which has just resurfaced on Crossing Cambodia's desk. Alas, no date, but undoubtedly from the Cambodia Daily. Ship had hit another sunken ship.
    'A Phnom Penh Port Authority official claimed that Friday's capsizing of a boat carrying sand on the Tonle Sap occurred after it had snagged the top of another sand-carrying boat that had been sitting on the bottom of the river since December. ... Phnom Penh police chief Touch Naruth reiterated Monday that there were no tourists aboard the vessel and ....'.
    What a relief! No tourists on a sand barge!
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