Crossing Cambodia

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Chasing Cars Cambodian Style, 17 December 2008

My last posting before all Cambodia motorcyclists are supposed to become helmet clad. Or not.
  • WHO in Vietnam claim that the compulsory helmets have saved
    '... more than 1,000 lives since it was introduced a year ago'.
    Which is more than 10% and has reversed increasing of traffic fatalities. Show's to some extent that the Vietnamese government take protecting their own serious.

    This contrasts with the situation here, where helmets have been compulsory for nearly two years but the traffic police are not enforcing. They have announced to implement the law as of Jan. 1, though we have heard that often before.
  • But it's not only helmets that worries Cambodian authorities:
    'Of the more than 800,000 motorbikes registered in Cambodia, only 14,000 driver's licences have been issued since the enforcement of traffic laws in 2007, according to transport officials, who are resorting to new tactics to increase knowledge of the Kingdom's road rules'.
    That's nearly 2%! Or in other words 98% have no license. New tactics however seem to be the same as ever:
    '... giving lessons on traffic law [at selected number of high schools in Phnom Penh]'.
    What about enforcing the measures? The above mentioned article on helmets in Vietnam mentions fines of 12$!
  • Other worries:
    'The skies over Dangkor district [of Phnom Penh] will be free of kites following an announcement by aviation authorities Thursday that kite-flying posed a risk to airplane safety and would henceforth be banned in the area'.
    Though a general international rule, CC doubts whether the skies will be truly free, a ban needs to be enforced. And how to ban? New tactics?
    'Most of the kite flyers are aged between 10 and 14 years old, and if we cannot educate them, then we will have to educate their parents'.

  • Then real worries or not? The link refers to a forum on the Tales of Asia concerning disembarking from the boot on the Phnom Penh - Siem Reap stretch. Two persons fell in the water with luggage. Damages are not paid:
    'Yes, they [the boat companies] are insured but the insurance stops when the boat engines are cut...'.
    'My concluding recommendation is to avoid selling this boat trip.
    Not only is it dangerous but it’s a completely overhyped tourist trap.
    1. Most of the trip (4 out of 5 hours) is on the Tonle Sap Lake, meaning there is nothing to see but lake water.
    2. The boat is quite crowded with very narrow seats and luggage is placed in the aisle.
    3. There are no stops on the way, no refreshments or snacks are offered.
    4. It’s comparatively expensive.
    Instead the bus should be recommended'.
  • The same site also has a recent mention of the road to Siem Reap from the Thai border.
    'Fun at the best of times after seven days of continuous rain the way now looked prime. Ships in a storm seldom roll so furiously. I gripped the seat in front with fingers, toes and even kneecaps. My head begged my neck to let it smash itself through the glass window. Nineteen people from eight different countries abruptly had nothing to say, in part for fear of severing one’s own tongue.
    Driving 150 kilometres from the border of Thailand we arrived at our destination over nine hours later'.

    The Cambodia Daily though reported last week how tourists were being 'kidnapped' by rivalry between competing transport companies in Poipet, a great place ... to leave.
  • Is this a worry for Cambodian's roads?
    'Sam An, 43, who runs a private automobile dealership on Phnom Penh's Monivong Boulevard, said his sales have declined by up to 50 percent over the last six months from a peak during the building boom of 2006, 2007 and the early part of 2008'.

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Chasing Cars, Cambo style, 10 December 2008

Much to mention so to see, but in reality?
  • The stuff dreams are made of. Elevated rail. Elevated roadways. That's the answer of growing traffic congestion according to the government. We could have these be as early as eight years from now,
    'but project lacks money [yours for 300 million $] and must look to donors, private sector for funds'.
    And they are not forthcoming. That sucks.
    But is it a real answer? The opposition think not:
    '"I think the sky train project is not a priority. The government should focus on rural infrastructure," said Mu Sochua, deputy secretary general of the opposition Sam Rainsy Party'.
    There's some value in that. Even high ranking officials are skeptical:
    "If [it] materialises, it could make only a small change in congestion due to the fact that are more vehicles on the roads and there is ignorance of traffic laws," said Phnom Penh Traffic Police Chief Tin Prasoeur'.
    Growth of vehicles according citations in this Phnom Penh Post
    article has been phenomenal, a tripling in the last few years.
    Indeed a single rail link won't change much. And in the meantime there still is a lot of growth to deal with. So maybe what's required is a multi-track approach.
    Gridlock in Phnom Penh is partially due to non-adherence to traffic rules: driving the wrong way down one-way streets, ignoring traffic lights, haphazard parking, poor awareness of users to proper way of driving (taking left lane and then turning right is one that springs to mind). At the same time those concerned with enforcing the rules are not at all interested.
    Then there is poor planning. For instance north-south routes are lacking and one of these (Monivong) is currently being dug up. The alternative for this road (Street 63) is now also out of bounds as the great traffic roundabout that is the Central Market, is being used for market enhancements. That means that from south to north there is gridlock during rush hour.
    Furthermore there is no intermediate planning. Especially the Russian Boulevard could profit from fly-overs, thereby easing east-west traffic and forming less of barrier to North-South traffic. Other enhancements could be where Monireth crosses the Ring Road and where the (northern and eastern) bridges enter the city basically dropping all mayhem on the roundabouts at the foot of the bridges. Real city buses is also an idea, excluding certain vehicles from the city center.
    But could we expect a real plan?
  • More dreams, the PM still wants a national airline.
    But didn't Cambodia just sign all kinds of agreements with an Indonesian company to do so? What happened to the deal? Has it been shelved (as was expected).
    Wanting something doesn't always mean you gone get it. The future of airlines seems to be one with over-capacity, much to the delight of passengers. Now (as was 6 months ago) the wrong time to spread your wings.
    Possibly the government should focus it's air policy elsewhere, having no national airline means that other airlines may wish to start up new routes, if only to off-set poor loading factors and getting a one-up on the competition. The Lao for instance are inviting all and sun-dry to set up a route from Hong Kong to Vietiane.
    The authorities could also focus on the air safety regulations which with the recent Siem Reap Airways flop could encourage outsiders to fly within Cambodia.
  • The air industry in Cambodia is set to be enhanced, not by the PM but by the owner of Cambodia's main airports (SCA). A long interview with the prez of the company in Ka-set. On Sihanoukville:
    'We just have to attract airline companies, now ....
    If airline companies think there is a market there, they will come with their planes. The critical part is to build up the image of Sihanoukville, promote the destination and turn it into a more attractive place, particularly with the development of hotel infrastructures.'
    Don't hold your breath.
  • Had an accident? Just call 119, which connects you with Phnom Penh's least worst government hospital Calmette. This article on KI Media (originally from VOA) gives you some insight in Cambodia's new decrees concerning picking up traffic victims. The reasoning behind the new regulations:
    'For the safety of victims and avoiding the anarchic activities of grabbing customers, the ministry banned private clinics from sending their ambulances to take victims of accidents'.
    'The majority [of the clinics] have abided the directive'

    Which seems somehow of a reassurance. But the original decree referred to
    'promote a public ambulance service'
    But what is a public service? This comment on aforementioned link:
    'This directive creates more problem for the public because Calmet's ambulance staff are all corrupt. I am one of the victims of 119. Let me tell you the story. One of my foreign customer had heart attack in my shop. she fell down on the floor. Then, I call 119 of Calmet's hospital. They arrived 5 minutes later. However, what surprised me, you guess? They asked me (the owner of the shop) for $50 without negotiation. I had no choice because the condition of the patient is very critical. Unfortunately, her husband told me that she was dead on the way to hospital'.
  • More dreams:
    'The Ministry of Public Works and Transport said that so far, the restoration and repair of the two railroad lines from Phnom Penh to Sihanoukville and from Phnom Penh to the Poipet border crossing with Thailand, ‘has not achieved any noticeable results, and the action is very slow.’
    The article continues to highlight all the features of Cambodia's rail upgrade, which has been contracted to take part in under two years.
  • License plate news:
    'The National Assembly issued a notice to the Minister of Public Works and Transport, Mr. Tram Iv Tek, on 4 December 2008, saying that the National Assembly allows the Ministry of Public work and Transport to take action to monitor and to seize number plates of private vehicles that use police and RCAF number plates'.
    Funny that, an article in the Cambodia Daily in February this year states that
    'Ministry of Public Works and Transport has now ordered all state, police and army license plates on private vehicles to be replaced with civilian plates by March 1'.
    So now the parliament is (belatedly) ordering the ministry around to do something which obviously they not so good in.
    'Police and RCAF number plates are often put on luxurious cars belonging to private individuals, and they are being driven everywhere and against many regulations, and with no respect for the law'.
  • Finally more on the road to Bokor. Here's Andy fuming:
    'We got it for $30 each, but it's still a rip-off! The Toyota wagon had 11 tourists on board, a driver and a guide. Nine of us held on tightly on the back of the pick-up for one of the most uncomfortable rides of my life, and I've had a few in Cambodia over the years. The road is being repaired, renovated, call it what you will but so far the Sokha Group, who have taken over the mountain as their own private playground for the foreseeable future, have done lots of preparatory work but practically none of the 30-odd kms up the mountain is anywhere near finished. I reckon it'll be years before it is. They've widened the road in places and it bodes well for the future, but that's a long way off and today, its a bumpy, rutted, pot-holed mess'.

Tuesday, December 02, 2008

Chasing Cars, Cambodian Style, December 2 2008

Despite the previous post, one would be surprised to see the ongoing reporting is still ... ongoing.

Major items this time round are of course the total chaos in Bangkok, at least this is not to be seen in any of the other Southeast Asian countries. The question is it due to the relative lack of democracy or because of the lack real democratic freedom that this can happen?
  • Another hot traffic item has been the suspension of Siem Reap Airways by the Cambodian authorities; who said that they dare not take their responsibilities serious?
    'The government has slapped a temporary flight ban on domestic carrier Siem Reap Airways amid concerns over its safety standards'.
    Well, not completely true. It's the EU who pointed out the flaws and whom's report has lead to this belated action.
    But in the mean time the Cambodian authorities ignorance has consequences:
    'Ho Vandy, president of the Cambodia Association for Travel Agents, said the ban was bad for the image of Cambodian air service'.
    Luckily, there is hardly an image for the Cambodian air service, as there is beyond this airline none other!
  • Despite there not being a economic recession here, both motorbike sales as well as cars sales are plummeting.
    'Local motorbike dealers report slower sales as the falling property market and declines in foreign investment hit consumer spending at home'
    'Sales of Toyota vehicles, among the most popular in Cambodia, have plummeted almost 50 percent since May, according to Kong Nuon, president of Cambodia's only Toyota distributor TTHK Co Ltd.

    "The real estate recession is the main cause for the sales decline because people are not earning extra cash from land sales," he said Monday. "Demand for cars has declined a lot."'
    As the real estate boom was fueled by foreign (Korean) funding, the end is near: prices are declining and sales are not taking place. So Cambodian roads might just well be more peaceful ...
  • Road updates from Khmer 440 forum: Bokor mountain near Kampot:
    'Sunday night and we just got back from there. We tried a $100 "donation" and still couldn't get through. We were told (I think) that there are not even tours going up any more'.
    Sihanoukville, getting around:
    'Will I have problems in Snooky riding a bike hired in PP and carrying International Driving Permit? No problems riding in Snooky at the moment. Saved a fortune in motop fares - those guys are taking the piss'.
  • From blog-o-sphere: Firststopcambodia gives some great insights into the dealings with moto's:
    'This is pretty much exactly what he said while ignoring the red lights on Mao Tse-tung Blvd:
    “ I want to kill myself, because I don’t have a girlfriend, but I love you…"'.
    On corruption:
    'Is the lack of a receipt or a record enough to call something corruption?
    Granted, the money you give to the police officer won’t go to the state or be used for some public good but then again if you think about it as my motodop did it is the same as paying a fine'.
    On Hummers:
    'I’ve only seen black Hummers so maybe it is just this one jerk driving around all day making life miserable for half of Phnom Penh, if that is the case I wouldn’t mind bumping into him and give him a good verbal beating. But Isabelle tells me that is a bad idea unless you are keen on getting shot'.
    driving with your moto Khmer lady style:
    'I had a large group of tuk-tuk drivers and motodops laughing and pointing at me'.
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