Crossing Cambodia

Thursday, June 05, 2008

Authoritarian policy priorization

From the weekly Mirror an interesting and revealing article on how Cambodian authorities prioritize everything, but more often than not fail to deliver on any of the set priorities.

To illustrate their story they look into depth at the current (or new-ish) traffic law:
'The new traffic law, adopted by the National Assembly in mid 2006, to be implemented only six months after it was signed by the King, should have started to have a visible impact by now – two years later'.
It also takes a look at the donating of GPS receivers by Handicap International Belgium (HIB), which was commented on by Crossing Cambodia earlier this week. To this the Mirror editorial adds:
'But it was also reported [in the handing over ceremony of GPS receivers] “that traffic accidents increase in Cambodia:” during the period of the first four months of 2008, there were already 2,249 accidents, and 560 people have lost their lives. Is this another indication that the challenge is too wide, so that the manifold goals of the new Land Traffic Law can hardly be seen to be achieved? Or is it just a reflection of the fact that the beginning implementation is not happening according to realistic priorities, and therefore not so much could be achieved?'
Again, it seems that merely hot air is produced, by now HIB which is a major donor should have expected some achievements. The editorial also looks more closely at what should be done:
' ... one should look and focus on minor points and start from there. And as an example he [a senior legal advisor to the Cambodian Senate] raised the problem that when traveling at night and the traffic light is red, still some vehicles continue to proceed.'
The editor adds, by asking the question of whether the political will to enforce the law really does exist?
'On 26 August and on 2 September 2007, I described that I had almost an accident – it was with a car without a license plate which almost hit the moto-taxi I was on. It is a major – non-technical – risk, that so many cars are on the road without displaying even a temporary license plate to identify themselves. This shows a basic flaw in the effort to enforce the law. It might not be too difficult to set it as a priority for some time, to stop, and to fine all cars without a license plate. It would also be an effective way to ensure that violators of traffic rules can be identified – and victims of accidents will not stay without knowing who hurt them'.
So that's a no? The editor's concluding remarks:
'Nowadays, police are obviously reluctant to report “powerful vehicles” belonging to “powerful institutions.” At that time last year, the Prime Minister had said that action against corruption can be conducted “if we are willing” even without an anti-corruption law. Are the law enforcement agencies willing?'
Probable answer is no.

What does this tell about Cambodian authorities? Certainly Crossing Cambodia would agree that the inability of Cambodian authorities to uphold any law reflects poorly on those authorities themselves.
But is this also not distinctively Cambodian? Anyone following this blog for the past 2 years should by now know that despite each nations uniqueness, Cambodia is trailing all it's neighbours, be they communist / capitalist be they richer / poorer in all aspects of regulating traffic which consequently results in poor safety standards which one could claim is neglect of duty by the government. So why not outright blame the same government?

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