Crossing Cambodia

Tuesday, June 30, 2009

Chasing Cars, 29 June 2009

Not much to mention, everyone (in the english press) is on holiday.
  • There's always the Khmer press to entertain you. Road safety blog dilengently jots down every Khmer and traffic related article. Pictures tell you most, what about this picture of a leg?
  • Did anyone notice this article from Phnom Pehn Post's Police blotter?
    'Two bodyguards of a highranking official, Chhel Chhein, 28, and Chea Chantha, 27, were taken to the Dangkor district police station for hitting a man with a gun in a motorbike incident. The accident was caused by the two bodyguards, who were speeding up on their motorbike and ignored the traffic lights at a juncture. They nearly crashed into the victim, who shouted at them for violating the traffic law. At the police station, the victim demanded a compensation of US$700. The bodyguards paid him only $100, which he had no choice but to accept'.
    Typical only in Cambodia?
  • Another typical only in Cambodia article:
    'Tuk-tuk crackdown targets Wat Phnom'
    (Phnom Penh Post (18 June 2009). Wat Phnom is one of Phnom Penh's main tourist area's. Tuk-tuks are one of the main modes of transport for tourists. The article mentions that Tuk-tuks are to stay away from this area. Why?
    'The police told me that I was parked in a disorderly manner'.
    The real reason?
    '... they [tuk-tuk drivers] believed the latest crackdown followed a recent near collision between Phnom Penh Governor Kep Chuktema's car and a tuk-tuk in the Wat Phnom area'.
  • A general message from the ADB:
    'without immediate action, the transport sectors of developing countries will account for the overwhelming share of increased carbon dioxide emissions by 2030'.
    Great news, but not really. Anyway, with the economic slowdown this prospect will also disappear.
  • ADB, though finances the alternatives:
    'the new [railway] station would be funded by a US$20 million loan from the ADB'.
    The alternative however is
    'expected to displace 200 families in Dangkor district should be completed by 2012'.
    The good news is that something is happening. Lot's of hot air has passed on the revamping of the national railway, but little substance. This seems concrete at least.
  • More general world news:
    'Nearly half of the 1.2 million people killed in traffic accidents around the world each year are not in cars. They are on motorcycles and bicycles or walking along roadsides.
    Traffic accidents were the 10th-leading cause of death in the world in 2004, behind lung cancer and ahead of diabetes, and they are on track to become the fifth-leading cause by 2030'.
    Surprisingly the report then neglects this highlight and recommends the following action:
    'The report identified five risk factors for injury on the road, each of which can be lessened by well-enforced laws: speed, drunken driving, helmets, seat belts and child restraints'.
    As if this were unknown. Though this article shows what's needed:
    'the focus should shift to what it calls "vulnerable road users" -- i.e. pedestrians, cyclists and motorcyclists.
    Naked cyclists [the World Naked Bike Ride took place on the 14th of June] who braved the elements last weekend couldn't agree more. Some people have a hard time understanding what being in your birthday suit has to do with bicycle advocacy. Cyclists themselves, especially those braving city streets, totally get it'.
    Now let's hope the Cambodian traffic authorities get it ....
Phnom Penh waterfront

Wednesday, June 10, 2009

Chasing cars, 10 June 2009

Quite a lot to mention:
  • A number of bigwigs were in town, time for a city clean up:
    'Police say the roundup was part of a campaign to clear the streets of drivers who sleep in their tuk-tuks'.
    Phnom Penh Post 26-05.
    It '
    angers' the tuk-tuk drivers:
    'The majority of the 34 tuk-tuks confiscated during the street sweeps ahead of last month's ASEAN-EU meeting have been returned, but drivers claim unfair restrictions have been placed on them by Phnom Penh police, which, they say, put their livelihoods in jeopardy'.
    But in order to have their vehicles returned to them, tuk-tuk drivers say they have been forced to sign a contract saying they will not drive on Daun Penh district's three main roads - the popular tourist streets of Sisowath Quay and Norodom and Sothearos boulevards'.
    A tuk-tuk driver
    'had to pay US$55 to the police in order to retrieve his vehicle'.
    Law enforcement Cambo-style: No offence committed!'
  • How to build a tuk-tuk? The PPP interviews an entrepreneur:
    ' "I noticed in 1998 that my country was not making any tuk-tuks.
    The factory builds about 10 units per month, which sell for between $500 and $550. Each tuk-tuk takes 3-4 days to finish, and most of the raw materials are imported from Vietnam, including welding machines, dying machines, metal cutters, cast iron machines and chisels.
    But even Tuk Tuk Craft is not immune to a global financial meltdown that started thousands of miles away, and Loun Vanna estimates sales have dropped 30 to 40 percent since late 2008'.
  • Harking back on the last issue of 'Chasing cars', a letter to the editor of the Phnom Penh Post (26 May 2009):
    'Regarding the article "PM presses for bike seizures" (May 21, 2009), the police could be empowered to seize and confiscate motorbikes without side mirrors and drivers without helmets under a Land Traffic Law amendment proposed by Prime Minister Hun Sen.At the moment, we can see that officials at police posts on our streets and boulevards don't all have their proper identity numbers or uniforms. Rather, they seem more intent on pulling over motorbikes and collecting "fines". Perhaps officials think that these "guilty" fines from motorbike drivers will enhance the national income in some positive way.
    Another inequity committed by traffic police is their attempts to fine foreigners at a much more exorbitant rate. My foreign friends say traffic police regularly attempt to extract fines of between US$5 and $20. But Cambodia's traffic laws do not establish one rate for Cambodians and another for foreigners. All drivers, regardless of nationality, are legally obligated to pay only between 3,000 riels and 6,000 riels for motorbike infractions'.
  • More law enforcement issues:
    'A municipal order that went into effect Monday requires motorbike passengers to wear helmets, although the Land Traffic Law does not stipulate that helmetless passengers can be fined.

    Ty Nath, a 40-year-old motorbike driver, said Monday that he was forced to pay 50,000 riels (about $12) after officers caught him driving without a helmet near Central Market. His two passengers weren't wearing helmets either.
    He said the police did not bother to explain the specifics of the law or the municipal order. "They just told me the fine was a compromise," he said before the officers returned and interrupted an interview'.
    Funny, though despite all this noise, still less than 2/3 of all drivers wear helmets. Personally Crossing Cambodia believes that it is a heavy core group of traffic offenders: most people driving up the wrong way on a one-way street are exactly those without helmets!
  • A big event: the opening of a bridge. The city was locked off to the south-west just for a ceremony; the lock off was more than 12 hours. People failed to show up at work, my maid couldn't make it to a funeral. Anyway, commuters there who thought their worries were over, at nearly the exact same place, the ground work has started for a fly-over. Though the PM stated that the fly-over is:
    'to ease traffic congestion in the capital'.
    The city govenor associates the fly-over with the need to:
    'help to eliminate poverty'.
Veunxay, Ratanakiri: no bridge here!
  • Despite all the hoopla for the bridge, another first goes unnoticed:
    'Cambodia will have its first taxiway next month in Phnom Penh International Airport, a path that connects the runway to where airplanes park to increase the flight capacity of the airport, local media reported on Friday'.
    More curiously the Phnom Penh airport officials see the light at the end of the tunnel:
    'Currently, only 10 passenger planes can land or take off in an hour from the airfield at Phnom Penh's airport, said Sok Puth Thoeun, director of the airport's engineering department. That will jump to at least 16 planes with the planned taxiway'.
  • More in-flight information. In the never ending saga of a flag carrier, Vietnam Airlines are taking over the Cambodian skies. Beware however they are just servicing Sihanoukville. Is that's what expected of a flag carrier? Anyway it's all top-secret according to the Phnom Penh Post:
    'Ownership of the national carrier is a closely guarded secret. Aom Chenda, an information official at the Council of Ministers, told the Post Tuesday that Cambodian Deputy Prime Minister Sok An told a Vietnamese oil company delegation Monday that a new national carrier would make its maiden flight July 18.
    He repeated the comment to reporters following the meeting but did not disclose who owned the airline, saying only that it was a local company. He also told the reporters the maiden flight would be July 17, contradicting the earlier statement.
    Meanwhile, Mau Havannal, secretary of state at the State Secretariat of Civil Aviation (SSCA), said Tuesday said that an "anonymous private local company" was preparing documents to apply to run flights out of Kang Keng Airport but that no official application had been received. "We do not know who owns the national carrier because it has not been named yet," he said. Chea Aun, director general of the SSCA, confirmed that the "private local company" would use French-made ATR planes'.
    Pity for the Indonesians who had been awarded the possibilty to undertake this.
    And for their Cambo henchmen!
  • Anyway it's going to be a difficult start. Air arrivals dip 16% in the first four months of this year. An article in yet again the PPP with an unintentional (?) shot of Vietnam Airlines aircraft. Citation of the week:
    "We think that the decrease is not only a problem in Cambodia but it is a worldwide concern, and we hope that the problem will improve soon," he [Ang Kim Eang, president of the Cambodian Association of Travel Agents] said'.
    So do we, so do we .... Let's all hope together, then it might just go away!
  • Why the new flag carrier would fly PP - Sihanoukville beats Crossing Cambodia: it's such a short distance and you'll face considerable inconvenience once in Sihanoukville. Anyway, despite the airport there being inconvenienced for a couple years there seems to be an urgency to get their act together. Unfortunately at the cost of villagers surrounding the airport.
    'families facing eviction said they haven't been offered any compensation since the airport expansion plans were announced in 2006'.
    The current urgency:
    'The airport expansion may become more pressing as progress is made towards a new national carrier. According to Mau Havannal, secretary of state at the State Secretariat of Civil Aviation, an "anonymous private local company" was preparing documents to apply to run flights out of Kang Keng Airport'.
  • A pleasant surprise on the Phnom Penh roads has been the disappearance of police and army license plates. Police are behind this:
    'Chao Phirun [army spokesperson] said Hun Sen's April 30 speech and subsequent warnings had prompted 90 percent of violators to remove their unauthorised military plates'.
    Now they just ride around without license plates.
  • Accidents are going down, apparently. PPP:
    'The number of people involved in road accidents in Phnom Penh fell by 32 percent in February compared with the previous month, the Cambodia Road Traffic Accident and Victim Information System (RTAVIS) said in its most recent report'.
    Cambo Daily:
    'The number of traffic casualties in February the most recent month for which data are available dropped 10 percent around the country compared to the same period last year'.
    Now the why? Cambo Daily again:
    'attributed the drop to Chinese New Year celebrations taking place in January and not February this year'.
  • The Road Safety Awareness in Cambodia blog is slowly becoming someone's daily (paid) job. Though it echo's this blog to some degree, it fails to note the context. Lately it's been including lots of pics of accidents swiped from Cambodian language web sites. Have fun!
  • Innovative ideas from around the world. We've had the sponsored pothole patches. This time in Canada, a slightly different twist of the same theme:
    'People in a small town in Western Canada are so fed up with the rotten state of their main road that they came up with an unusual form of protest - a calendar that shows them posing nude in the potholes'.
    Pity people here are not so in to calenders.
    This weekend is also another good cause, pro bicycles, anti gas guzzlers. It's the
    World Naked Bike Ride, um ... but not in Phnom Penh. Nor anywhere else in Asia by the looks of it. Are Asians anti-bikists?
  • A final note, who said there were no bus-stops in Cambodia?
    'Three men from Baliley village, Poipet commune and town, Banteay Meanchey province, were arrested for allegedly wounding and robbing a 33-year-old Belgium man of US$180 on May 26 while the victim was standing at the Poipet bus stop'.

Wednesday, June 03, 2009

More enforcement

The Mirror continues with highlighting law enforcement especially concerning the traffic law and how haphazardly and discriminatory it's being implemented:

The Mirror, Vol. 13, No. 614

One week ago, the following observation and question was shared here in the Mirror:

“Most societies work with the concept that individuals do not have the right to break the rules or to use violence that harms 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?”
Now, after the Prime Minister had pointed to the fact that important elements of the Land Traffic Law of 2007 are not being implemented, an active campaign is under way to catch violators. There is police positioned in different parts of Phnom Penh, stopping motorcycles without side mirrors, and with drivers without helmets.
I saw on Saturday how two teams of policemen with walkie-talkies, some placed at a busy intersection, and the second group placed some distance along the road, identified and caught violators of the Land Traffic Law of 2007. I observed how they caught one after the other motorcycle driver. But I observed also that a big black Landcruiser without a license place passed by slowly, and nobody cared.
Probably only if the Prime Minister would issue an order to catch big cars without license plates the traffic police would act?
But does this really help?
Two weeks ago, on 20 May 2009, we had mirrored the following headline from Rasmei Kampuchea:
“Prime Minister Warns Officials to Stop Interventions in Traffic Accidents [to release their family members, relatives, or friends, without letting the law deal with them]”

But on 26 May 2009, there was the following headline in Deum Ampil:strong>“A Minor Traffic Accident Leads to the Shooting of Three Bullets”
What had happened?
A luxury car collided with a motorbike with a young man and a woman. Then the man who had driven the car, pulled out his gun and shot three times in the air, but the people who had been on the motorcycle fled. The Khmer newspaper did not provide much more information, and the accident did not seem to have made it into other Khmer papers.
The English Cambodia Daily reported more on 26 May 2009:
The son of a high ranking government official shot a handgun into the air three times after his car collided with a motorbike…, though police did not arrest the shooter, according to witnesses and police officers who requested anonymity. Multiple officers declined to provide the young man’s name due to the power and influence of his father. “We are in a lower position, so we dare not touch them,” one officer said. Seng Chanthon, deputy chief of traffic offenses of the city’s traffic police department, confirmed that an accident had occurred, but he would not say whether shots were fired nor give the name of the alleged government official’s son who allegedly opened fire… Police quickly surrounded the scene, according to witnesses and police officers, but the shooter and his passengers simply left in another SUV [Sport Utility Vehicle] that arrived. The driver of the car, which had its front wheel damaged, however, retrieved his vehicle in person at the Chankar Mon discrict police station on Monday morning… According to Pen Khun, deputy municipal police chief, no official reports by police or the public have been made regarding the crash and the shooting.”
So what? How to relate the two messages of 20 May and of 26 May 2009?

The traffic police is busy following the order to implement the Land Traffic Law of 2007 – catching often simple people who have not yet bought a helmet. The message of the Prime Minister of 20 May 2009 has obviously not yet reached the traffic police – not even the higher level officials whose names are quoted above.
So what will be the next step? Or will there be none for quite some time to come?
Despite the Mirror noticing more traffic law enforcement, at least 1/3 of all drivers still ride without helmets, so much for enforcing the law. Is it me or are the guys (they often are guys) driving in the wrong direction and ignoring the lights never with helmets? It certainly seems so. Possibly this points to a serious group of untouchables, how will the police ever get them to tie the line?

On the same subject of law enforcement Andy Brouwer relates to the peculiar "law' which saw several tuk-tuk chauffeurs have their possessions impounded by the traffic police because a number of dignitaries were visiting last week. Their 'crime'?
By yesterday (Tuesday, 3 days after the 'meeting'), not only had the owners not been able to retrieve their means of making money, they had failed to find out which government establishment had stoshed the booty!( Cambodia Daily?)

Totally unrelated it may seem but yesterdays Phnom Penh Post gives us an example of how 'law' is maintained:
'On Tuesday morning the police in Battambang province called two seventh-grade students aged 15 and 16 at Netr Yang High School who were standing in front the police station to come in and cut their hair, which police said was too long. The police said they could not stand seeing students looking so bad'.
And what if the the police look bad at implementing the law? That's fine? Can the public stomach this?

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