Crossing Cambodia

Tuesday, May 26, 2009

Enforcing the law

The Mirror's take on law enforcement:

The Mirror, Vol. 13, No. 613

The Mirror has frequently focused on problems related to law and order – including, of course, the rights of citizens guaranteed by the Constitution, which the organs of law enforcement should protect and not curtail.

Very often problems in society do not happen because of a lack of legal clarity, but because existing laws are not enforced. Stability and happiness in a society depend, however, on predictability and general contentment, based on the notion that laws will be enforced to establish justice in peace.

In every society there are people who break the law – that is why all societies and states have developed rules how to deal with such violations of the rules. Most societies work with the concept that individuals do not have the right to break the rules or to use violence that harm others – but the state has a monopoly to enforce laws, and it is assumed that this happens regularly, as a matter of fact.

Why is it that in Cambodia, law enforcement often does not happen just simply based on an existing law, but an additional appeal or even a threat is necessary.

In 2007, traffic accidents killed 1,545 people in Cambodia. In 2008, 1,638 people lost their lives on the roads. During the first four months of 2009, already 579 people were killed on the roads. If this trend continues, the death toll by the end of the year may be more than 1,700.

There are many reasons that contribute to this tragedy, and many different measures to work against it.

A couple of years ago a rule was established that motorcycles have to have rear-view mirrors, and after a period of preparation – ? – a campaign was held for some weeks, educating drivers without such mirrors. In 2007, a new Land Traffic Law was adopted, that drivers of motorcycles have to wear helmets. The police was authorized to fine drivers in violation with Riel 3,000 [approx. US$0.75] for no helmet, and Riel 4,000 [approx. US$1.-] for no side mirrors.

But the chief of the traffic police in Phnom Penh was recently quoted as saying that fining those who do not respect the law does not seem to be very effective – a surprising statement, when one sees regularly groups of police standing at the roadside and not intervening when traffic is stagnant or congested.

Now we had a headline, saying: “Head of the Government Orders Not to Charge Money from Those Who Do Not Wear a Helmet, but to Confiscate Their Motorbikes – the Owners Cannot Take Their Motorbike Back Unless They Go with Their Newly-Bought Helmet.“ The Phnom Penh Post had more to report from the Prime Minister’s speech: “Police must keep the motorbikes, and when the owners have helmets and side mirrors, they can get their motorbikes back, and I will grant the owners one liter of petrol as an encouragement for them.”

Is change to come? This is difficult to predict, considering a report in the Phnom Penh Post:

“The general director of the General Transportation Department at the Transport Ministry, said that the ministry would re-examine existing traffic legislation to identify the articles that needed to be amended.

We think that it will take a long time to amend this law because we have to check all the articles that are being enforced before sending it to the National Assembly.”

Will change come from new, detailed legislation, or form a new approach to the enforcement of existing law? To reform road traffic, starting from a weak sector seems anyway to be an “easy way out” – one would have expected also a word about the many private luxury cars without any number plate at all, or the heavy ones with with military or police plates, driving high speed on the wrong side of the road, with headlights on, indicating that “Now get out of my way, don’t you see who is coming!”

But there is some hope.

The Prime Minister gave also also an ultimatum of two weeks to the many owners of cars with military or police number plates, who are actually using the license plates illegally for their private vehicles. Several hundred cars have been re-registered in the meantime. It can be assumed that most of the owners and drivers of these cars, mostly middle and high ranking officials, knew well that they were acting illegally until now.

These are the first steps on a long and arduous way towards a deep re-orientation of values. How complicated the related mental attitudes are, became obvious when a journalist, taking a picture of a banner announcing the advice of the Prime Minister – not to charge a monetary fine from those who do not wear a helmet, but to temporarily confiscate their motorbikes – was detained for some time, until he could convince those who had detained him, that the press law allows it that one takes a picture on a public road.

But all know that the press don't like laws! Especially for themselves.
Otherwise it's a thoroughly entertaining article.

Sunday, May 24, 2009

Chasing Cars Cambodian style, 24 May 2009

A round up:
  • Cambodia’s PM goes against the grain. He actually wants bribery and especially bribing police to stop:
    ‘“Some government leaders give money to traffic police and the gendarmeries, but sometimes this kindness scorns the forces who apply the law and scorns the law as well,” Hun Sen said at a ceremony to change heads of the government’s counter-drug office. “Please stop doing it.”
    Why would he mention this at a counter- drug ceremony? And why is he so anti-Cambodian social norms?
  • What is acceptable [from khmer440 forum]?
    'Someone has spent large at the Mercedes dealership today. I got pulled over by the police on Norodom this afternoon while a convoy of brand new Mercedes cars and minibuses headed south. There must have been over 40 vehicles, all of them spanking new. All the cars had signs in their front windows telling the names of different countries. Is Cambodia hosting a major international meeting?
    I wonder who payed for all those cars - that's some serious loot.'
    A.: ....?
  • More gifts:
    'China on Tuesday provided about 73 million U.S. dollars of a concessional loan to Cambodia to build a part of main road in the northeastern part of the country to develop that area into a newly potential economic zone'.
    Technically it's not a gift, but who will pay this back?
  • More on gifts, but now from the less fortunate Lao: '
    Lao cops accept donation.
    No doubt, these sponsored plastic traffic danger triangles will greatly assist them'.
  • And now we are to find out what happens to the gifts: the speed guns are in use. At least according to the Phnom Penh Post (19-05-2009). But citing Phnom Penh's top cop:
    'We are reconsidering working at nighttime.... It is a bit hard to work at night for the police when they try to stop drunken drivers, especially in dark places'.
    Surprise, surprise, Cambodian drivers usually drink, drive and speed at night as during the day there is too much traffic and lights interfere with the drinking business!
  • Meanwhile on the license plate biz front a Phnom Penh Post writer on Monday had the following:
    'The government is cracking down on cars with unauthorized police and military number plates. But around 8:30am, everyone can see Mercedeses with government plates driving the opposite way on Monivong Boulevard towards the Council of Ministers building. Why do cars with government plates insist on driving in the opposite lane during rush-hour traffic, as if they were an emergency vehicle like an ambulance or firetruck?'

  • And then the PM waded in:
    'During a speech at the Ministry of Interior, Hun Sen ordered ministers to take action after he noticed that drivers were still flouting his recent ban on the use of RCAF and police plates by unauthorised vehicles. He said he had ordered the ministers of interior and defence to establish a deadline for drivers to get rid of their illegal licence plates, saying any cars still bearing unauthorised tags would be confiscated by the state.'
  • Not only cars need to confiscated, according to yet again another Phnom Penh Post article:
    'Police could be empowered to seize and confiscate motorbikes without side mirrors under a Land Traffic Law amendment proposed by Prime Minister Hun Sen. Drivers without helmets would also be subject to the amendment suggested in a speech Tuesday'.
    That seems a bit harsh. Moreover it's against the law. Currently only art. 84 gives police the powers to confiscate, but only in cases of overloading a truck. Despite that traffic police do regularly confiscate cars after accidents, this in clear contravention of art. 72. One problem with laws are that they are supposed to be adhered to. And considering that a new law can take anything of up to 10 years to draw up (in the case of anti-corruption), amending this law might take some time.
    Finally, Phnom Penh's top traffic cop adds a curious remark:
    '"I think it is good that the law [will] allow police to catch the motorbikes to warn those who do not respect the law because fining them does not seem to be very effective," he said'.
    But we have already proven (see previous Chasing Cars that it's the police who are failing to be effective, not the law!
  • On law enforcement, from Thailand, a mention in today's Bangkok Post.:
    'Director Nonsri "Oui" Nimibutr has been convicted on a second drink-driving offence. A court has sentenced the former drink-driving campaigner to 14 days in jail, reduced to seven days confinement after he confessed. They also suspended his licence for six months.
    "I want the court to reconsider the sentence. I don't want to just sit around for seven days. How about getting me to front another advertisement, free of charge, on the dangers of drink-driving?"'.
Yeah, how come?
Somewhere along the highway in Kampong Thom province.

Sunday, May 17, 2009

Chasing cars, 17 May, 2009

Another list of updates:
  • Prominently, it seems another corner of Cambodia which elicits non-stop whining is nearing it's demise:
    "We have a comfortable ride to Siem Reap since the road is nearly finished now." The road from Poipet that is. What remains: 'So we're finally done, and prepare ourselves for the most difficult step, getting the taxi to Siem Reap'.
  • Up next as always, ah yes, the non-allowed license plates.
    'Prime Minister Hun Sen warned last week against the use of police and military license plates by civilians and low-ranking officers, saying the government would seize vehicles bearing unauthorised plates as part of a crackdown set to go into effect this month'.
    How does the law work in Cambodia?
    'Phnom Penh Traffic Police Chief Tin Prasoeur said he viewed Hun Sen's remarks as a "notice that we have to start implementing" the law. We immediately started implementing it after the prime minister's speech," he said, although he said this "implementation" involved only the recording of registration plate numbers that appeared to be in violation of the law.
    "We just take the plate numbers down. We do not fine them," he said'.
    Big help? Thinks not. The article originally from the Phnom Penh Post attracts a fair amount of passionate commentators on KI Media.
  • Two days later the Phnom Penh Post wades in yet again:
    'Crackdown on unauthorised plates has led to a surge in applications for civilian plates at vehicle registration office.Police on Tuesday continued removing unauthorised police and military license plates from vehicles throughout the capital, but officers said they had not yet begun administering punishments specifically outlined in the law that prohibits civilians and low-ranking officials from using such plates'.
  • Law enforcement?
    Van Yeth, 29, was reportedly beaten by Phnom Penh police Friday after he was stopped for driving a vehicle with no registration plates. The conflict erupted when police fined the man 9,000 riels (US$2.25), but failed to return change from US$10. The victim is threatening legal action after the incident, which occurred on Russian Boulevard, Sen Sok district, Phnom Penh'.
    Phnom Penh Posts Police Blogger.
  • And ... some more law enforcement issues:
    'Traffic police say they are planning to crack down on speeding, drunken driving and driving without a license, with drivers being dealt fines as soon as next week'.
    Rest assured:
    '"We received the order to implement these laws this week, but due to the holiday, we will implement them next week," he said'.
    Crossing Cambodia just renewed his license, took 4 weeks, cost 35$. Cambodia Daily (13 May 2009) adds:
    'the delay also arose out of a need to further advertise the laws and fines more effectively to the public'.
    HIB (cited in the Cambodia daily):
    'it is high time enforcement starts as statistics indicate most traffic accidents on Cambodia's mostly lawless roads are caused by drink driving and speeding'.
    However, the Road Safety Cambodia site states:
    'Over 90% of accidents are caused by human error. Speed, particularly along the national roads, drink-driving, dangerous overtaking and general violations of the traffic law are the chief causes of accidents (RTAVIS 2007)'.
  • Last Chasing Cars reported on how Cambodian villagers were blocking the Trans Asian highway. More inaccurate reporting, this time by the VoA.
  • Trans-Asian Highway. Trans-Asian Railway. According yet again to VoA:
    'Chinese and Australian engineers are gearing up to build the final stretch of track in the Trans-Asian Railway, which will link Singapore, Malaysia and Thailand with Vietnam and China through Cambodia. The Cambodian government has divided the country's railway system in two. Australia's Toll Holdings takes control of old French-built lines in the east, which run from the capital to the Thai border and south to Sihanoukville, home to one of the largest ports in the Gulf of Siam'.
    The Chinese apparently will look into connecting Phnom Penh to Vietnamese rail system via Snoul. Possibly if they look better at the map, they might discover that this is by far the shortest distance ... not.
Another piece of Cambodia's Trans-Asian Bamboo bridge, here the Kampong Cham section.
  • Finally, on the Khmer 440 forum this question:
    'Do cars require a safety Certificate in Cambodia every year?'
    A.: No.

Sunday, May 03, 2009

Chasing Cars, 3rd of May, 2009

Just a couple of news items.
  • Leafing through this weekends Cambodia Daily, I was struck by the aggressive (for them) journalism being undertaken. Not what we expected of them.
    So are they trying to catch up with the Phnom Penh Post? Trying to win back readers?
    How about putting their stories on the net? Since the Post went Daily nearly all references to the daily have disappeared from the i-net.
    Anyway back to traffic. Front page caption:
    'Police Fail To Enforce Speed Laws by Deadline.
    After weeks of public announcements warning that Phnom Penh traffic police would begin strictly enforcing the city's new laws against speeding and drunk driving on May 1, the much-hyped equipment for identifying speeding and drunken drivers was noticeably absent from the roads Friday.
    Why? Feeble explanation 1:
    'Deputy National Police Chief Ouk Kimlek said the police needed more time to publicize the new rules against speeding and drinking and driving, though TV and radio commercials announcing the plan have been airing since at least mid-March'.
    Feeble explanantion 2:
    'Phnom Penh Traffic Police chief Tin Prasoeur said that his officers, despite having received training, still had concerns about using devices such as the alcohol Breathalyzer and speeding cameras'.
    So did they get trained? Or was the training just on paper? What are the concerns? Why does this explanation conflict with feeble explanation 1? The traffic police chief seems at a loss:
    'He [Tin Prasoeur] did not know why the equipment needed to be examined further.
    HIB now goes on the offensive:
    'Ryan Duly, road safety adviser for HIB: "Education is an important part of road safety, but you have to follow through with enforcement".
    Even more mind boggling are the final comments by the "spokesperson" of the National Police (though earlier id. as Deputy National Police Chief, is it either/or or both?):
    "it is unrealistic to expect "100 %" enforcement'.
    But 0% is realistic?
    Oddly though, the Phnom Penh Post mentioned on Friday that the new equipment would be deployed on Monday .... Maybe the Cambodia Daily reporters should start reading the Post!
  • The reporters of Cambodia Daily seem to have to be making up, for taking a holiday during Khmer New Year. On page 18, a full article captioned by
    'Helmet Use on the Wane, despite New Law: Watchdog'.
    Crossing Cambodia has drawn attention to this issue, already back in February, no less. Then again, Crossing Cambodia is no government watchdog, probably more a particularly unreliable source of information. Anyway, the Watchdog they refer to is Handicap International Belgium (the aforementioned HIB).
    'The helmet wearing rate was much higher in the first few weeks before dropping off, partly due to lax law enforcement, Handicap officials said.
    The key to maintaining a higher level of helmet wearing is twofold: The police must maintain the threat of punishment for violators, while the government and NGOs must go further with their road safety eduction programs. He [HIB Official] said that the 3,000-riel (US$ 0,75) fine handed out to violators is too small, as it did not deter many drivers and did not motivate police to enforce the law to the fullest'.
    Can somebody explain why the police must be motivated to enforce the law? Is it not their job?
    "Phnom Penh Municipal Traffic Police Tin Prasouer denied this week that his officers had become lax in their enforcement of the helmet law, saying police continue to fine drivers not wearing helmets. Municipal police chief Hin Yan acknowledged the sharp decline in the percentage of drivers wearing helmets compared with the law's initial wave of compliance after Jan. 1'.
    But the drop was not due to lax enforcement. No, this guy (Hin Yan) knows the reason:
    "Many people have never used them before, so they might feel uncomfortable to use them because sometimes they can't hear anything," he said.
    But that does not explain the drop? Or is the urge to phone and moto around town increased dramatically?
    The reporters then do some of their own research. In a 15 minute time period they see 30 helemtless drivers wizz past 4 police officers on a city intersection with no action being taken. Then, after half an hour, the police retain life functions and clear the road for an oncoming motorcade. They pull everybody to the side of the road, but still fail to pick up helmetless riders. The article concludes that more promo needs to be done, why not conclude that the police should do their job? Or are they hopeless?
Rattanakiri, no roads. But with helmets!
  • Furthermore, this weekends Cambo Daily reports on the usual occurrence of a traffic accident between equals going wrong. This time a 'minor fender bender' erupted in an all too predictable shoot-out between occupants of a Toyota Landcruiser and a Honda CRV. Apparently the Landcruiser guys lost and their car has been impounded. The CRV got away. The report explains that this was the second shootout this week, that the know of.
    'Thursday nights incident was the second this week in which a minor traffic accident resulted in guns being produced and a driver being assaulted. On Wednesday at lunchtime a man was allegedly assaulted and had a weapon drawn on him from behind in a minor accident on Norodom Boulevard. Police arrived on the scene, but allowed the armed man to leave, claiming both sides had come to an understanding.
    One human rights monitor said he'd be surprised if police actually pursue either part. "It goes back to the problem of immunity.
    I think that this is not news to anyone that state actors have enjoyed immunity for well over a decade in instances as these".
    So it's actually not a news item. Oh did I mention that the CD also had on it's front page the CNN allegations that the biggest show trial in Southeast Asia ever is in danger, due to a senior Cambodian official pocketing $40,000 monthly and the government seeing nothing wrong in this?
  • More battles.
    'Boaters Battle for Chong Keas',
    the Phnom Penh Post reports on 30 April 2009.
    'Travel agents and boat owners are fighting the Sou Ching Co, which runs the port in Chong Kneas and is striving to regulate tours through the popular lakeside village.
    On the waterfront in Siem Reap, a battle is brewing between those who believe that Sou Ching is bringing a desperately needed level of organisation to lake tourism and those who say the company is imposing ill-advised, draconian policies without consulting the people who rely on boat tourism'.
    The good news:
    'Some boat owners are also burned by the fixed pricing system, which prevents them from fleecing tourists. "They're not losing their livelihood," said a source who works at Sou Ching. "They're losing their corrupt livelihood."
  • Meanwhile over in the port of Kep, the Japanese are moving in to ... get the Vietnamese to move in!
    'A Japanese company is investing US$4 million to develop a tourist port in Kep province, the provincial tourism chief said Thursday. Rotong Development Group is behind the deal that would allow Kep to receive cruise ships and link the town to Phu Quoc island in Vietnam, provincial authorities said. A ferry capable of accommodating 220 passengers would operate under the first phase of the project'
    Though I've heard it before, there's no reason not to think it won't happen.
    'Tourism Minister Thong Khon said the development will begin soon and would "only take six months to complete".
    Don't hold your breath on this one. PM Hun Sen is appalled by the Japanese:
    '"I have told the [Japanese government] to begin building the Special Economic Zone. We already signed an agreement in 2006, but we are still waiting," Hun Sen said'.
  • Is Cambodia a pothole? Apparently so, so says the Bangkok Post (3-5-09).
    'The Trans-Asian Highway meant to link many countries has hit a big pothole in Cambodia'.
    Biased bigots, I hear you say? Or are the Thai ignorants referring to Tonle Sap? Siem Reap? Poipet even, that's a giga pothole. Calm down.
    'Thousands of angry Cambodians are thwarting plans to complete a final stretch of tarmac in the much vaunted Trans-Asian Highway that will link Singapore through Thailand to China, Russia and Europe by a network of all-weather modern roads'.
    But mea culpa:
    'Plans for a Trans-Asia Highway date back to the 1950s when it was first mooted. But for the next 40 years overland routes from Singapore ended in Thailand with wars and political detentes in Cambodia, Vietnam, Laos and Burma effectively severing the Malay Peninsula from the rest of Asia'.
    Thailand's the obstacle, not?
    'Corresponding highways [of the Trans-Asia Highway] in Thailand and Vietnam have been laid out as construction from Poipet on Cambodia's western border to Siem Reap and the ancient temples of Angkor Wat, and then on to Phnom Penh, were completed. From Bavet on the eastern Vietnamese border the highway stretches 142km westwards to Kien Svay, but remains 13km short of its final destination, the Monivong Bridge that crosses the Bassac River on the outskirts of Phnom Penh.
    Japan is funding the final stretch'.
    Aha, Japan again! The article continues to describe the problems, basically because the process of building a new road leads to displacement of some people and the process of resettlement is not transparent (i.e. corrupt). So maybe it is Cambodia! Then again, the link still misses a Mekong bridge, which is most probably going to be built by the .... Chinese. Aha!
  • Trans-Asia Highway or not, the PPP has an article with a cycling duo:
    'Between the exhaust fumes, colossal Land Rovers and hoards of hell-bent motorbike drivers, Cambodia's roads do not strike the visitor as particularly cyclist- or eco-friendly. Nonetheless, a duo of determined athletes are taking on the Kingdom's highways in the name of environmental awareness, armed only with their bikes, good will and a significant degree of road rage. In fact, with 80,000 kilometres and 45 countries under their figurative belts.
    But it is primarily a passion for the environment that is driving the pair, who are using their journey to teach youth in classrooms in each country they visit about the dangers of climate change and environmental degradation.
    The state of the Cambodian roads and physical environment has been particularly troubling.
    "Cycling and walking is seen as being for poor people here, so everyone is rushing out to get their own moto or Range Rover without awareness of the long-term consequences," she [Stani Martinkova] said'.
    A pity that the Velomads have not an updated web-site. And a pity that it's the farangs once more who need to highlight the advantages of 'slow travel'.
Related Posts with Thumbnails