Crossing Cambodia

Wednesday, July 23, 2008

Chasing Cars election style

  • Yesterday's Mirror reports on the increase in traffic victims :
    'During the first six months of 2008, the total number of traffic accidents was 3,511 which killed 903 people; it increased 17%, compared to the same period of the first six month of 2007 ...
    “Major Suos Sokha, deputy director of the vehicle registration management office, and of the department for the registration of boats and ships of the Ministry of Interior, reported to Khmer Sthapana on 21 July 2008 the reasons that lead to the increase of traffic accidents in the first six months of 2008: these are driving in violation of traffic laws with 1,560 cases, riding motorcycles without helmets with 778 cases, not obeying priority traffic rights with 502 cases, driving while being drunk with 439 cases, speed racing with each other with 349 cases, and 261 cases of careless driving etc…'.
    This all seems a bit confusing, surely driving drunk also is in violation of the law, as is riding motorcycle without helmet. What would etc. entail?
  • How does law enforcement work? In Lao:
    'Traffic police will crackdown on illegal and unregistered vehicles on Monday, fining motorists who do not comply with regulations. ... More than 700 officials will start to check out those illegal vehicles along various streets and main roads in Vientiane this Monday. ... The police will also inspect vehicles at government offices, organisations, factories, schools, restaurants and entertainment venues'.
    This was all to be read in the Vientiane Times of July 17, 2008. Possibly our Cambo friends can take an example from their northern neighbours? Ah drats, it's election time!
  • Meanwhile, Vietnam has raised the price of petrol by 31%.Why?
    '"If prices had not been raised, fuel trading firms would suffer losses of between 67 trillion dong (3.98 billion dollars) and 72 trillion dong (4.28 billion dollars) [this year]," Minister of Finance Vu Van Ninh was quoted as saying'.
    Compelling reason?
    Important for Cambodia is that the price difference with Cambodia will drop but still be nearly 0,20-0,25 US$ /liter.
  • Wet season? Siem Reap - Thai border?
    'The road was still Mad-Maxian but they are working on it. A lot of grading and a lot of sewer pipe or drainage installation. ... The potholes however, were minimal until Poipet, which can only be described as the arsehole of Cambodia. Potholes 10-15 feet wide, filled with water and debris; bikes, trucks, cars, carts and stray dogs all trying to negotiate this maze. Its really beyond belief what a dunghole this international border town is! The last 400 yards took us 20 minutes!'
    Why not walk?
    The above was just from one report on the road Siem Reap - Thai border from the Tales of Asia overland site.
    More? A June entry:
    'Sure there are some unmade bits, little detours where they are building new bridges etc but it’s a breeze. The worst bit was in Poipet itself – what a dump!'
    Is there a ballot going on somewhere where we can vote on the best hell on earth?
    'Crossing Cambodia, may I have your votes: Poipet ten points, Poipet dix points!'
  • The latest version of Asialife [note site hasn't been updated for quite sometime: you'll have to get a copy yourself!] has quite a few articles on traffic related issues in Cambodia.
    'Off road tours are bringing Cambodia's remote treasures within reach. ... Landmines, previously a major peril, are largely cleared, but travel down cambodia's cratered provincial roads remains arduous. Preah Vihear, for example, is gruelling five-day road trip from Phnom Penh. ...
    "there are many dangers on Cambodian roads - heat, dust poor visibility, and bad weather can make driving difficult," says Reiny [of Red Raid]. " But traffic is by far the most dangerous". ... "Phnom Penh is pretty nuts for the newly arrived ...." ... despite the hazards, Reiny claims that Cambodia's roads are comparatively safe
    "Driving in Cambodia is no more dangerous than any other country in Asia," he says" Driving in Europe has its dangers too." '
    So does eating an ice-cream.
  • More in Asialife this time hiking up Bokor.
    'The hike takes between six - eight hours each way, so you must stay overnight. ... Arriving in the late afternoon means you have the complex free from daytrippers'.
    And 'Cruising the Tonle Sap'. Both the luxurious CFM and Jungle Journeys ('a former Mekong ferry!') cruising companies are highlighted.
  • And finally another long article on the train to Battambang. The concept of 'slow transport'!
    "Why else would you subject yourself to the rain (holes inthe roof], wind, upright wooden benches and glacial pace for a minimum of 14 hours?"
    It's just 247 km! Despite all the great writing skills. it ends with:
    'The trip is only for the serious traveller'.
    Which means what? Clear off you hordes?

Saturday, July 19, 2008

Chasing Cars, the Preah Vihear peace edition

Everywhere there's Preah Vihear in the media, here, there and everywhere. Which is quite surprising. It's been here/there for centuries and hopefully will be here/there for more, however politicians and/or soldiers seem to need to uptake the issue of whether the temple is here or there to fulfill their cause, as if here/there are no more pressing issues?
Final word on the issue, with the Thai side closed and the Cambodian side nearly impassable (rains), don't hold your breath on the temple becoming the second Angkor Wat or what, within the foreseeable future that is.
  • A first on the election front:
    'Two party activists killed in collision'
    is an item from VOA as published on KI Media.
    '"This is the first time a political party activist died in an election campaign due to a traffic accident," he [Pok Pulrith, chief of traffic police in Takeo] said'.
    Make that first and second. Usually, party activists are killed by murder. Do not know whether this is a change for the good ....
  • More from the front, ... the election front that is, not the Thai-Cambo front! Vuthasurf writes about campaigning with government cars albeit without license plates:
    'According to the new road traffic law, the vehicle’s drivers without license plates are subject to a prison sentence of between six days to one month and a fine ranging from 20,000 to 200,000 riel'.
    He then concludes:
    'the enforcement of traffic law is still weak, and only the poor and ordinary people have been punished and fined'.
  • on the same issue, reveals that the 2008 parliamentary election campaign is actually:
    'A Lot of Unlicensed Vehicles Campaign'.
    Though that's what the opposition thinks ...
  • Vietnam is now irritated about subsidizing petrol in Cambodia. Considering the bill they have to pay for subsidizing their own petrol last year was over $1 billion, subsidizing Cambodia in the process can hardly be worth being irritated.
    'The Market Monitoring Department under the Ministry of Industry and Trade said that petrol smuggling in the Mekong Delta tended to increase lately, with some 15,000 liters of petrol smuggled to Cambodia per day'.
    At 0,30 $US profit margin / ltr, this might represent $1.5 -2.0 $US million, probably not even a percent of this years bill. Cheap neighbours nah?
  • More from the frontier of the illegal fuel smugglers, this time from the other (now irritated?) neighbour ostensibly known as the 'Land of Smiles'.
    A fuel truck overturns. As 3 journo's (or is it journies?) happen to pass, they see this as a great photo op. Not so.
    'Then two men from a Mitsubishi car which came, with a license plate of the Royal Cambodian Armed Forces [RCAF] with the umber 2 2809, jumped out and hit the journalists with their hands and kicked them and brutally twisted their arms and boxed them'.
    Journo no. 1 had
    'his nasal bone ... broken'
    , journo no. 2 had
    'his camera ... broken'
    , while journo no. 3
    'was able to escape from the hitting'.
    Luckily for Cambodia, that these guys fight for us! Pity that now the stream of cheap fuel from Thailand will come to a stop.
  • There are some 'normal' news facts from Cambodia itself:
    'Cyclo drivers in security guard smackdown'.
    From the Khmeri Prosperous blog:
    'Phnom Penh’s cyclo drivers say security guards around the city’s markets are chasing them off and making it increasingly difficult for them to earn a living. ...
    “About half of all of cyclo drivers have faced problems with market security guards, usually asking them for money,” she [Cyclo Center coordinator Nouv Sarany] said, adding that guards at Phsar Thmei (Central Market) and the Sorya Shopping Center were the leading cause of headaches [is that literally or a figure of speech?]'.
    Shame on those guards! ABC adds:
    'The drivers have also accused the guards of seeking protection money'.
  • Paying protection money? Yesterday's (July 18, 2008) Cambodia Daily mentions:
    'Tuk-tuk drivers form unofficial union at port'.
    What for?
    'to control access to tourists arriving ... at Phnom Penh Autonomous Port'. ... In return for the monthly payments, security guards will ensure that only members of the group [or 'unofficial' union] will be allowed into the area where tourists arrive.
    The manager of the port though seems to be a bit slow:
    "Nowadays we don't take money from the tuk-tuk drivers ...",
    but then regathers himself, contemplates and believes it's a grand idea, charging 'protection money:
    "but in future, we might charge some money", Hei Bovy [Phnom Penh Autonomous Port Authority General Manager] says.
    As their formation was to halt:
    'limiting earning for drivers',
    one guess should suffice to who will eventually ends up paying the 'protection' money!
    Next time take the bus and hope the bus company doesn't do the same! Fat chance....
  • Finally from the statistics front: April saw 176 less citizens in Cambodia, which represents a 21% increase over April 2007 Cambodia Daily reports (18 July 2008) from a (unpublished?) monthly report by RTAVIS.
    Again the police are quoted on how the traffic law is being disrespected. Well police, do something about it!

Friday, July 11, 2008

Chasing Cars not so often anymore

  • Has anyone noticed? It's election time! That means the party in control can use cars without license plates which are an apparent improvement of cars with military, state or police license plates. Details from this article on KI Media. Seems to be all the same to Crossing Cambodia.
  • From someone called Tynan (Scottish?) an extensive coverage of a recent rail journey from Battambang to the capital. Photo's are available here. He (or is it a she?) seems impressed:
    'Calling it a passenger train is a bit of a misnomer, though. ...The train is slow, probably the slowest train in the world. The fastest I clocked it with my GPS was 17kph. ...
    The journey from Battambang, a city reasonably close to the Thai border, to Phnom Penh takes four hours by air conditioned bus. I've been on the train for 17 hours now and there's been no word on when we'll finally arrive. The official timetable claimed it would be 5 hours ago. ....
    We once stopped unexpectedly because one of the four car's bumpers had jumped onto another one's'.
  • Another unexpected train stop occurred the last week:
    'A train for transporting oil collapsed on Saturday at 12: 30 p.m., destroying at least three homes along its rail way in Tuol Kok district’s Boeng Kok I commune. Fortunately, no one injured of the accident and it did not contain oil in the time, or it could cause fire. The victims demanded for compensation, but both local authorities and police did not know the company deal with the case'.
  • The same derailment though seems to have drawn some attention: some of the victims are continuing their pursuit of compensation. More intriguing for Tynan:
    'S'im Tang, 63, whose house was flattened in the derailment, complained that the train had sped through the neighborhood on an unsafe track'.
    Must of been at least 20 km/hr, then!
  • As if the railways haven't enough headaches, a cement truck
    'crashed with a running train'.
    The report states that there were no injuries, but not what the possible damage could of been. The police though blame the railways:
    'The train officer should have given sign to travelers when the trains crossed the road, he [Angkor Chay police chief Keo Vibol] added'.
  • More unexpected stops, this time with fatalities:
    'A Korean driver killed five members of one Cambodian family [traveling on one motorbike] while speeding under the influence of alcohol [and driving on the 'wrong' side of the road, police said Monday'.
    This quote from KI Media. Khmer refers to a
    'brutal traffic accident'.
  • Prices are going up, Vietnam is preparing more measures to stop smuggling:
    'Under the ministry’s decision, border gas station customers will not be able to fill containers with fuel'.
  • Despite fuel prices going up, transport prices will only change next month, surprisingly after the elections:
    'The Phnom Penh municipality held a meeting on Friday with the transportation and the parking lot owners to keep the price of the transport price on the campaign as well as the election day'.
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