Crossing Cambodia

Friday, August 29, 2008

Chasing Cars, end of August 2008

So what's new? Well, I could include a long list of articles referring to accidents happened, but basically they would all lead to the same Phnom Penh Post source, so if that's your interest just check their site.

Anything else?

Certainly. Police are still trying to enforce the law at least concerning the absurd notion that having mirrors might result in a drastic drop of fatalities. If anything, more accidents will occur, as the mirrors stick out and are more likely to snag other riders' mirrors. But still, you have to start somewhere.

  • Yesterday's (28-08-2008) Cambodiamirror(!) Khmer language translated press review (from Khmer Machas Srok, Vol.2, #231) focuses on enforcing the law and the PM's nephews: there seem to be some contradictions between enforcing the law and having good connections:
    '“A lawyer, an official of the Ministry of Public Works and Transport, reported to The Cambodia Daily that drivers involved in accidents that result in the death of a persons cannot legally escape from a conviction of a crime by paying a compensation to the family of the dead victim.
    “However, Mr. Khieu Kanharith, the Minister of Information and the government spokesperson, seemed to protect the perpetrator, Mr. Hun Sen’s nephew, in a press conference on Sunday.
    “It is reported that Mr. Hun Chea, Mr. Hun Sen’s nephew, had paid a compensation of US$4,000 to the family of the victim who rode on his small motorcycle and died through the accident, but there is no legal action taken. Mr. Khieu Kanharith said that doing so [paying a compensation to the victim’s family] is legal in Cambodia'.

  • Law enforcement in neighbouring Lao takes place as such:
    '“On this model road, we want to fully enforce traffic regulations and ensure proper traffic management will be put along the road so road users will have to strictly obey the traffic rules,” he said.
    He explained the road would be fully equipped with traffic signs, speed inspection areas, cameras, designated vehicle lanes and directional markings. ...
    “As we have seen on highways overseas, we need to have standards and proper facilities on our roads to ensure the safety of road users and prevent accidents,” he said.
    Police Captain Sengthong said the concept would be extended to another road if the first road proved to be successful in forcing road users to obey traffic regulations'.
    So, let me get this right, they are seriously thinking about enforcing the law as a great way to reduce accidents, but instead of starting with mirrors, they'll start with 1 (important) road. Smart? What's more, they point to other countries as prime examples. Now why are the Khmer not so smart?
  • Talking itself up, Cambodia believes it has the worst traffic record in the whole of ASEAN. DaS mentions this, referring to the Bangkok Post:
    'Cambodia is now officially home to the most dangerous roads in the 10-member Association of Southeast Asian Nations, officials said Thursday'.
    But how official?
    'The ministry did not provide updated comparisons to other ASEAN countries, but said Cambodia's fatality rate puts it ahead of much larger nations such as the Philippines, also known for road chaos'.
    Your claim to fame? More propaganda:
    'The government spent millions on driver education, taking out television and newspaper advertisements and setting up driver education centres, after the Asian Development Bank estimated accidents cost the country 3 per cent of its GDP in 2003 alone'.
    The government spent millions? Ha! The whole article is a hoax. VoA mentions:
    'In the first five months of 2008, 10,555 people were injured in traffic accidents, while 645 were killed, said Meas Chandy, road safety coordinator for Handicap Cambodia.
    Whereas Bangkok Post mentions
    '956 in the first half of 2008'.
    So in June alone 300 deaths? Then again the cited article seems to be incorrect as well, as the PPP (August 28, 2008) mentions 716 in the first 5 months (their site is down (sic!)) which corresponds with the most recent data of Road Traffic Accident and Information System. So if, what is right in the Bangkok Post, June would have resulted in about 240+ deaths, roughly 30% above the deadliest month yet (Feb. '08) or 50% above this year's monthly average. Now that would be news, rather than citing some official and naming it 'official'.
    Or what I would be more concerned about is how all know the reasons for the deaths are:
    'The increase of deaths was the result of "over-speed and drunken driving'.
    So what are mirrors going to do to alleviate this?
  • More Lao news:
    'Govt closes low tax loophole for cars.
    The government has closed a tax concession loophole that was being exploited by investors to allow them to import luxury cars into the country without paying normal rates of tax'.
    Again a good way of ensuring law and order CC thinks, just let everybody know you're there and make clear that what is illegal/unjust will not prevail. Now in Cambodia are there loopholes? Or just the one, big one?
  • The future of cyclo's:
    'Some people say the cyclo, though pollution free, may be on its last leg, as demand for them decreases'.
    Pollution free and not subject to petrol prices.
    'Unlike other cyclo drivers, who are typically of an older generation, Chdou Kosey said he merely wished to explore the life of cyclo peddlers. Besides, he said, there are stories of many successful people who started off as cyclo drivers.

    "In fact, I heard from my teacher that some excellencies also peddled the cyclo," he said. "The cyclo is just my temporary job." ... '
    Now there are about 10 cyclo shops left in Phnom Penh because there is no space for parking and no peddlers. I think it will disappear in the next four or five years."
    Alas? Or a good idea for PM's nephews?
Did I mention that last weeks posting was the lucky 333rd?
  • On a different note: Asialife (August 2008) focuses on "Leisure and wellness": the Easy Riders:
    'A small group of regular cyclists, the Easy Riders, have over the course of a few years, mapped out a variety of interesting routes to the outskirts of the city'.
    Get a copy if you're interested.

Sunday, August 24, 2008

Chasing cars, wet season style

One would expect two weeks into the new 'get tough(?)' campaign of Phnom Penh's traffic police that adherence to some of the enforced rules of the traffic law would be rising. Unfortunately it's not the case. Wearing a helmet is still only done by 20-30% of the motorcycle drivers and though side mirror counts are increasing, they hardly reach 10% usage. So a waste of time?

With the cloudy conditions, the traffic police have been able to set up shop at new sites looking to surprise the odd moto. Is this positive news? Hardly, those of us awaiting a new dawn after the elections will have to be satisfied with the same old song.

More traffic news?
  • The Cambodian Mirror focuses on the increasing number of deaths in Cambodian traffic:
    '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'.
  • Rainy season? KI Media has some pictures:
  • Good news for the Vietnamese, petrol smuggling (to Cambodia) is down. This though is bad news for Cambodian drivers who rely on the Vietnamese petrol smuggling for cheap adulterated fuel. With prices at the Cambo pumps dropping, smuggling will also drop.
  • How's the traffic in Cambodia? Kalyan's blog:
    'Yes, the traffic is currently getting worse as there are more vehicles on the streets and some do not respect the traffic law at all'.
  • Matthew describes taking a 'van' from Sihanoukville to Phnom Penh:
    'About that point we reached my personal best of being crammed into the taxi, counting 24 people in the van, each contorted to accommodate everyone kind of like a big jig saw
    On the way up we see two traffic accidents and one body lying on the road
    We continue past the airport through the flooded roads, right when a truck overtakes us through the deepest part of the water. The boot of the van is tied down but ajar because it is overloaded. A tsunami of brown, muddy and smelly water is swept up by the truck , through the boot and soaks everyone in the back rows
  • In the rainy season bridges are a luxury. Those traveling from Battambang to Pailin will find out why.
    'A cement containing truck destroyed a bridge'.
    Highway 57 is out for the moment, wait till it dries up.
  • A report connected to the above story? '
    'When roads become rivers. Newly constructed roads on the outskirts of Phnom Penh are deteriorating rapidly, according to local residents, who say hasty repair work and a lack of proper drainage are condemning them to a life of chronic wet-season flooding'.
  • More wet season problems, this time in Siem Reap:
    ' "The plane landed in heavy weather," the [Jetstar Asia] spokesman said. "The aircraft drifted to the edge of the runway" '.
  • Another traffic victim:
    'Pok Chantola, 55, a car salesman in Meanchey district, was crushed to death by a Lexus 470 while waiting for his friend in front of a beer garden in the Chamkarmon district of Phnom Penh at 10:30pm on Saturday. The driver of the Lexus, Hong Piseth, 38, was drunk at the time of the accident. He was detained by police at the scene but was released a day later after he paid $13,300 reparation to the victim's family'.
    Do note the difference in payment, to the incident in last weeks Chasing Cars edition, where the well-connected driver paid only $4,000. Maybe his victim was poorer...
    Meanwhile, the Phnom Post police blotter continues:
    'A drunken driver of a CRV car, and his three intoxicated passengers, crashed into the parking lot of Calmette hospital in Phnom Penh on Tuesday. No one was injured in the accident but 12 motorcycles were damaged by the out-of-control car. Witnesses said that the CRV car did not have a number plate and ended up stuck on the hospital wall. Police have arrested the driver, Khan Kosal, 30. The car and the damaged motorcycles are being kept at the Municipal Traffic Police office'.
    So, if I'm right: you damage motorcycles, you go to jail, you kill someone, you do not go to jail!
  • Finally an unlinked mention. Cambodia's Pocket Guides latest Phnom Penh Out&About issue focuses on accidents:
    'Motorbike accidents are so common in Cambodia, it's taking on the mantle of a national sport.Hit-and-run seems to be the most popular, which typically involve a monstrous SUV barreling through an intersection'.
    The article then gives the classic accident scenario and the lack of insurance which naturally would help Cambodia hugely. It ends with this prophetic words:
    'As Cambodia's traffic laws develop and the capacity to implement them grows, more and more drivers will be required to attend driving school,obtain proper drivers' licenses, be covered with a minimum of third party liability and, most importantly, follow the law. So remember the next time you're pulled over for not wearing a helmet and told to pay that dollar, it's ultimately for your own good'.
    Seeing is believing

Friday, August 15, 2008

Chasing Cars, 15 August, 2008

This week sees the arrival of the nearly daily Phnom Penh Post; not much to do directly with traffic I hear you say! But the reporting does focus much on providing local content and what's more local than what's happening on the streets?
What's more they have also managed to maintain (at least this week) an up to date web site rendering many of the past content providers to this site obsolete, at least that seems to be happening. Future will learn.

Another noteworthy highlight of the week has been the back to work ethic by the traffic police. While on my bike yesterday on Monivong, two polite officers were standing in the shade of a tree, one ready to pull someone off the road, the other with a receipt book (for fining purposes) and a copy of the traffic law (for educational purposes). What is going on?
  • It seems a concerted effort is underway to regulate Phnom Penh traffic. At least according to a report from PPP:
    'Police officer Chav Hak said traffic cops were responsible for monitoring four infractions - missing driver's licenses, license plates and rear view mirrors, as well as excess passengers - and were currently focusing on rear view mirror fines.
    "We postponed implementing the law until after the election, but now we are enforcing it."
    According to the traffic policeman, a rear view mirror infraction carries a 4,000 riel fine, ...'
    Still, rear view mirrors? Aren't helmets more important?
    Excess passengers? Will this mean there is a future for taxi's?
    One point of contention is that it seems that motorcycles are disproportionally the focus of the law enforcement.
The trouble in Cambodia with law enforcement is the unpredictable way in which it gets enforced. Possibly unpredictable is the wrong word as it's obvious to all here that the more you own / earn the less you will be scrutinized. Take the next case:
  • 'Phnom Penh authorities remain silent on the identity of the man who slammed his black Cadillac Escalade SUV into a motorbike Sunday night, killing its driver before fleeing'.
    Clearly an offence of the traffic law (fleeing the scene). But the report continues:
    'Numerous traffic police passed the scene without stopping, but the wreck drew the attention of about 20 military police, who removed the license plate from the SUV.
    "After about 30 minutes, the number plate was removed by the armed police," said witness Makara, 17. "I heard the police tell the car driver, ‘Don't worry, it wasn't your mistake. It was the motorbike driver's mistake" '.
    An update yesterday states:
    'On August 3 at about 11:30 pm, a black Cadillac Escalade SUV sped north up Phnom Penh's Sothearos Boulevard at more than 100km/h [speed limit?] before running down a man on a motorbike, tearing off his left arm and left leg in front of the Regent Park Hotel. The SUV's driver attempted to flee, but a destroyed front left tire forced him to pull over in front of the Ministry of Justice'.
    And from the culprit:
    ' "Please stop broadcasting about this case, or I will file a complaint, because the case has already ended. You see, there are a lot of terrible accidents. Why don't [journalists] go there and ask those drivers?"Last week, Deputy Municipal Police Commissioner Him Yan said he would open a file on the case. "According to the law, it must be sent to court," he said.
    But Tuesday Him Yan declined to comment on the case'.
    The driver got off by paying $4,000 to the victim. Life is cheap in Cambodia.
  • More on poor law enforcement:
    'Sihanoukville police attempt to renew ban on motorbike rentals'.
    As reported on various occasions on this site, Sihanoukville seems to be not in Cambodia. There is absolutely nothing in the law which restricts the use of motorcycles to locals, so how can the Sihanoukville authorities get away with this?
Other traffic news:
  • Police blotter:
    'Paralysed driver kills and injures
    Sorn Chorn Pheap, 44, who is paralysed in the left leg, caused a car accident while driving a truck on Highway 4 in Kampong Speu commune on Monday. Say Sok Lim, 5, died in the accident and four others were injured. It is not known why the paralysed man was driving'.
  • Publish against accidents:
    'We have published these books because traffic accidents in our country are increasing and the situation is the worst of all the ASEAN countries'.
  • Paving the road to one of Cambodia's national treasures:
    ' "I got orders from Prime Minister Hun Sen to pave the road from Anlong Veng district town to Sa Em village, Kantout commune, Choam Ksan district, Preah Vihear and to finish it as soon as possible," said Kvan Siem, commander of military engineers at General Command Headquarters'.
  • Overboard?
    'Eight foreign tourists and five Cambodians were rescued from a tourist boat which capsized in high winds and sank near the popular tourist hub of Siem Reap, a district official said today'.

Monday, August 11, 2008

Chasing Cars post election style

With the dust of the national election having settled down and washed away by the monsoonal rains towards the South China seas, one would expect all to be back to business as usual: enforcing the traffic law by using an intricate system of fines. Dream on!
  • Cambodia Life, a free Khmer / English / Japanese magazine, mentions in it's latest issue (vol 2, issue 15) amongst others ('Preah Vihear Temple Temporary Closed') the arrival of a brand new metered taxi firm in Phnom Penh.
    'Global Taxi has agreed a 20 year contract that will eventually see up to 300 taxis serving the Kingdom's capital. 12 taxis will arrive on the streets straight away, with 48 more to be introduced later this year.
    high ranking Phnom Penh Govenor Kep Chuktema said "the presence of the meter is proof that Phnom Penh has improved" '.
    Does that mean the opposite equally applies? That the many taxi companies, who have failed in the past, are proof that Phnom Penh is not improving?
    Anyway the company took out a page size ad, so maybe it's just useless company profiling.
    Why would they call the company Global Taxi?
  • Khmer 440 have more on discussion on the (same?) metered taxi's. The discussion seems to move away from the main subject blaming tuk-tuk's ('They cram up the streets, block or take all the good car parks around all the major markets and the riverside') and Lexus driving general's wife's (and daughters) for causing all of Phnom Penh's traffic woes ('please start making generals wives take Lexus lessons, they are the scariest shit on the roads'). Pax though does have an actual experience to relate:
    'I took one the other day at the suggestion of a Cambodian shophand on how to get my tv back to my place. Brand new clean car, sober driver, full blast cold air condition, cost me 2.25 from Psar Themei to far Toul Kork. I thought it was great. The time meter only stops if your not moving at all, so even in slow traffic you aren't getting charged for the time'.
    So who knows, they might be onto something?
  • Changes to traveling in Cambodia. The notorious Siem Reap - Thai border road, despite some upgrading, has seen it's usual monsoon troubles:
    'In April, dry season, I took 2 1/4 hours to do the whole stretch. Record time for me. The last 50km from Sisophon to Poipet are nearly completely paved. Since the rains have started it's taken friends between 3 and 6 hours'.
    Thanx Sunsan on Khmer 440.
    Meanwhile on the developments on the Koh Kong - Sihanoukville sector. Henning Wessel (on ToA) reports:
    'The regular daily boat service has been discontinued between Sihanoukville and Koh Kong (it now stops in Koh Sdach, about half the distance. Careful, it's an island, onward travel is up to the individual). The operator has succumbed to the stiff competition posed by bus companies that have begun service on the road since the last bridge has been opened and the bad weather on the coast. He also said the boat would be available for charter and I wouldn't at all be surprised if it recommences in the high and dry season at an inflated price as a tourist attraction'. Well, we'll just have to get used to inflation or take a bus. I always thought traveling via Koh Kong was a rip-off.
  • While the debate rages here on the merits / demerits of the various 'so-called' transport systems in Phnom Penh, the citizens of the City of Angels (Krung Thep) are profiting from their free rides. However, The Nation reports complaints about waiting times and packed buses (naturally if there are free).
    'Other issues involved dangerous driving and the risk of groping, pickpockets and fights between rival vocational students'.
    Well, thank god we won't have any of that over here!
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