Crossing Cambodia

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

Chasing Cars, mid-August 2009

Imposing the law? According to their own claims
'more than 60,000 vehicles have been temporarily impounded'.
That seems a bit unlikely, even logistically. Lost in translation possibly?
'Hem Ya, deputy chief of the Phnom Penh Police Commissariat, said that vehicles have been held in order to educate owners who break the law. "I think that so far, 80 percent of Cambodian people respect the traffic law" '.
Well, wake up call. If that is respect then come again. Nowhere in Cambodia are 80% of the people respecting the law! On a good day you might see 50-60% wearing helmets nowadays, but that's common sense, it's not respect for the law. Respect for the law is having a license, stopping at stop signs, not cutting off other road users, not running red lights, not driving on the wrong side of the road, not cutting corners, not driving and using phone, etc., etc.

Well, let's hope there's better things to report on this week.
  • Ban the poor souls!
    'I’m sure that it’ll be a great consolation to both tourists and tuk tuk drivers that their ban from Norodom Boulevard in the latest lunatic edict from the madcap and increasingly nagging world of City Hall, will ‘prevent traffic jams.’ As it happens, traffic jams caused by groups of people being efficiently and economically ferried around by tuk tuks happen, in my own humble experience, to be somewhere in the region of nil. Whereas, expats across the blogsphere (myself included), have been banging on for years about the exponential increase in the number of fatass, luxury SUVS blocking up the city’s streets - and something tells me that these black steel panthers may have more of a causal relationship with these traffic jams than the humble tuk tuk. The problem is as clear as a bell to me'.
  • If some readers (and authorities, see above) believe that Phnom Penh is congested, wait til you see Vientiane:
    'A massive increase in new vehicles is giving Vientiane commuters a headache as peak hour traffic snarls affect transportation across the city'.
    Vientiane Times has us believe the Lao capitol is in the same league as Saigon, Djakarta and Bangkok! What distinguishes Vientiane from Phnom Penh is the solution sought:
    'Minister of Public Works and Transport, Mr Sommath Pholsena said his ministry would focus on promoting and improving public transport as a way to address traffic congestion in the capital'.
  • Koh Kong is Cambodia's wild west?
    'The driver swerved and the back end started to slide out. Shards of rock and rubble started bouncing loudly off the under-carriage, people started screaming, but by some small miracle, the driver managed to recover from the swerve and we didnt end up in the dirt ditch at the side of the road, taking a dirt nap. About 150 meters down the road (in the middle of nowhere), I see a gang of young Khmer men waiting on their motorbikes, scrutinising the bus (for damage I’m guessing?) and looking back at the debris from the smashed boulder, a few with very disappointed looks on their faces and a few others laughing their fucking heads off at our near death experience. By the time we got to the border I couldnt help feeling a bit more cynical and wondering how long it would of taken for the bus to get looted if we had of rolled? What's the value of the contents of a tourist bus these days? a couple of hundred dollars per head, 30+ people, $4-5K? A fair days take for a gang of trainee motodups, id say? I wish I could say this is my only bad experience on Cambodian Buses'.
    You mean there are worse?
  • Odd law enforcement in Sihanoukville. The street determines what the license fee shall be.
    'According to a representative of the drivers, the temporary solution provided by provincial office was that motorcycles not bearing any license plate will not be confiscated'.
    The same in Banteay Meanchey? And what are we talking about?
    'a deputy provincial governor, warned that officials would not be able to reduce the fee, which could be as high as $200. "If we were to reduce it, it would have too large an impact on the national budget," he said'.
    The national budget in ruins? Is there a national budget?
  • A non-report?
    'Prices at petrol stations climbed about 3 percent Wednesday, despite calls last week from Prime Minister Hun Sen for lower fuel costs, and petroleum officials said additional price spikes should be expected as world oil prices rise'.
    The PM can obliterate the opposition within 2 hours (he claims) but imposing the law on all is difficult as well as getting petrol companies to abstain from making a profit! Met his match?
  • The National Road Safety Committee claims that traffic injuries are dropping in Phnom Penh. The Phnom Penh Post copies these claims.
    'Traffic injuries in Phnom Penh decreased by 55 percent from May 2008 to May 2009'.
    55% is a low! But he! Crossing Cambodia swept through the May 2008 and May 2009 reports. Causalities in May 2008 in Phnom Penh: 139 (source (PDF)). May 2009: 219 (source). An increase of 57%! That's just plain poor reporting.
    'Though crashes and total casualties in Cambodia decreased compared with May 2008 by 13 percent each, fatalities saw a 12 percent increase'.
    The reason for this drop in casualties?
    'Ung Chun Hour, director of the NSRC, said that enforcement of the Land Traffic Law - which requires motorbike drivers to wear helmets, among other regulations - is the most likely source of this decline in road injuries'.
    Get real, the probable cause is poor reporting. Dying on the road is increasing despite more helmets, that's the message.
  • Headline from KI Media which must have come as a rude wake up call for the Cambodian government: New Railroads cost Money! An odd comment from an Australian business person:
    'it certainly will increase traffic on the rails because road transport as we know is very expensive and considerably dangerous, considering the safety aspects on the roads here," Mayes said'.
    The Phnom Penh Post (18 August 2009) might have a solution, by way of the magical words
    'additional funding'.
    ADB Daydreaming:
    ' "It makes Cambodia the hub of transportation between China and Singapore, and you would have a port link, you would have a link to Thailand, you'll have a link through to Vietnam, and the implications for that, for Cambodia in the region, are that Cambodia becomes the hub".'
    A port and a rail road mean nothing.
Law enforcement at night, a novelty? 'Drink and drive enforcement'

  • Seldom are we treated to the details of a traffic accident. Apparently if the victim is a relative of someone important then that changes things.
    'Yont Thauron, the son of Sam Rainsy Party lawmaker Yont Tharo, was shot after his car was involved in a minor traffic accident while returning from a wedding'.
    Though not necessarily packed with details, the Khmer 440 Forum for once provides us with more:
    'From the unsubstantiated rumour department...we took a tuk-tuk last night near the monument and the word according to him was that some rich guy's kid had a minor scrape with a moto around the Monument. The moto was at fault, apologized and swore he'd pay for the damage (how, who knows?). But the kid told him he'd pay at the hospital in blood after he was done kicking the crap out of him. Whereupon the moto guy pulled a gun and shot him'.
    Just a rumuor. It does appear there are different versions of the same story. Phnom Penh Post:
    'Witnesses at the crime scene said that after the traffic accident, Yont Thauron and his friends exited their vehicle and ordered the motorbike drivers around them to kneel down and apologise, leading to a furious argument'.
    Anyway the eventualities are clear, 1 dead, a couple of wounded and 1 poster banned from Khmer 440 forum. Will we ever find out the truth?
    'I'm not saying that the stories aren't true, I do not know if they are or if they aren't, but it just doesn't sound like him. Again, thank you everybody for you condolences'.
  • Humour from NZ:
    'Mel writes: "Just before our departure - for the practical test of my full driver's licence - the instructor asked me to test the horn to make sure it worked. Knowing full well that the horn did not work, I turned my head to the right and let out a vocal 'hooonk'. He replied, unconvinced, 'What was that?' I told him it was my car's horn. He dryly noted that he hoped my driving was better than my honking ... I passed no problem."
    Probably would not get a pass in Cambodia; tsss... a car with no horn!
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