Crossing Cambodia

Saturday, August 08, 2009

Chasing Cars. What? It's August already?

Skipped a months worth of posting so you might expect a lot to have happened in the meantime, which in a sense is true, though it's not so obvious. So let's get started:

In the past month the local strongman has been using his power to pressure all those with a differing view. However despite announcing that's he's had enough of the traffic anarchy, controlling the population as a whole is a entirely different thing. The PM thought confiscating all and sundry (i.e. those without side mirrors or moto's without helmet clad drivers) will cower the populace into submission. But alas as always, the enforcers all work once a week and by now everyone is back to the ago-old Cambodian custom of driving hither and nither.

Another important occurence is that the country has it's own airline, called Cambodiaangkorair (CAA for short) which sort of covers the subject. However the Cambodian government owns only half of the part that makes the profit. Problem though is that it's totally controlled by Vietnamese, their aircraft, their crews, so Crossing Cambodia doubts whether it will make a profit. Better to keep the fees high than produce a profit which needs to be shared. Wonder if the bright guys thought of that before?
The CAA route map though looks a bit weak, most flights are between Phnom Penh and Siem Reap, how is that to serve the country by generating more passengers? The connecting flights section is actually a copy of Vietnam Airlines flights from Hanoi, to which the new carrier does not fly.
If the Cambodians are really serious they should ask Air Asia or the likes to open up routes to the northeast. With good opportunities in place to Singapore, Malaysia and Bangkok, creating more options to Hanoi (direct flight?), Hong Kong, Taiwan as well as seeking new sources of tourists from South / East China and central Vietnam is what's required. More info, here, here and here.

Subjects with less coverage / importance:
  • Elsewhere tuk-tuks are coming into the spotlight for law enforcement apparently. There are roads and other roads where only tuk-tuks may not drive. Why?
    'They say we are anarchic and cause disorder in the city'.
    If that's the scale to measure, then everyone can start packing! And are they safe?
    'But the presence of tuk-tuks on the roads also adds to the chaos of traffic in Phnom Penh. Their large size makes them difficult to navigate, and some are obviously not built with safety in mind - such as those with very thin metal bars to support their back seats, which can be dangerous for larger passengers. Some tuk-tuks are powered by very weak and old motorbikes that cannot effectively transport heavy passengers and goods, leading to awkward turns that obstruct traffic.
    'Letter to the editor. Nice people?
    'Too many of the drivers aggressively hassle expats and tourists alike, not only with entreaties to take one to the Killing Fields, but also trying to push drugs and prostitution. Many also deliberately obstruct junctions, making it very difficult for pedestrians to make headway'.
    Letter to the editor.
  • Fuel prices are also under investigation ('to reconsider price hike', please).
  • Airport in Sihanoukville to open? Not yet, as Nicolas Sarkozy wants to do it himself, seeing that it was him who made the thing.... ,not. He's expected to arrive in November. No new flights either ...
  • All the law enforcing, has not resulted in less deaths. Cambodian logic:
    'Even though we have breath analysis machines, the number of accidents still increases'.
  • Roads from China? Meant is money from China, roads to ...?
    'The gratitude of the Royal Government and the Cambodian people toward the government of the People’s Republic of China, a great and long term close friend'.
    All the way back to the Khmer Rouge times ....
  • Priceless? Mastercard and Hotel de la Paix are donating push bikes to students in Siem Reap.
  • Road tax to be paid! Vehicles excluded are:
    'ambulances and fire trucks; vehicles belonging to the Royal Cambodian Armed Forces, the military police and the police; any vehicles used for national defence or security; and diplomatic or consular vehicles'.
    What's left?
  • Cambodia's car industry takes off!
    'former math and physics teacher from Kampong Chhnang province, uses his knowledge to successfully come up with a solar-energy-powered car'.
  • Expatadvisory's Phnom Penh forum has an article on child beggers on the street:
    'Which brings me to the Monivong - Sihanouk intersection. I see kids there every day. I frequently see traffic cops there every day, in the shade near CD World. ... Would it be a stretch to suggest the cops move the kids off the street? For their own safety?'
  • More from the same forum. This time it's Phnom Penh's biggest mall, which is in for flak:
    'A Khmer friend left her moto & helmet there [Sorya] this week. When she came back they gave her her moto - but not her helmet.'
    The gist:
    'The car park attendants at Sorya are well know thieves'.
    Then the Lucky gets brought into the discussion:
    'The parking system at Lucky Sihanouk is far superior, but I still cringe at being charged to use a supermarket car park'.
    That's what you get when there's no competition ...
  • People say Phnom Penh is safe, others deny, however after dark beware:
    'an English national is in stable condition at Calmette Hospital after being shot twice during a robbery outside his home near Russian Market early Sunday morning. Assailants shot Mark Fitzpatrick, age unknown, in the back and chest and stole his motorbike around 1:30am, according to police'.
    The discussion continues:
    'Don't tell me... this guy got here about six months ago and is calling himself an expat. I've had 3 friends "killed" here since '02. I've had dozens of friends get their motorcycles stolen.
    Foreigners have been getting knifed, conked over their heads, robbed, drugged, mugged, raped, swindled, shot, for as long as I can recall in Cambodia.'.
    That sort of sums up Phnom Penh's threats.
  • Asialife focuses on Vespa's in Phnom Penh. Only for enthusiasts.
  • Strongman not so in control, blames his underlings for failures:
    'Prime Minister Samdech Hun Sen also repeated his previous recommendation to look at the roads. Samdech explained, ‘When I say again to look at the roads, that means: first, there must not be illegal check-points along the roads, and second, if the road is damaged, it must be repaired'.
  • Kampot is getting sidewalks, according to Stan:
    'the riverside greenstrip is being completely redone. It compares favorably to its seedy, unkempt, grassy past, but it’s really not to my taste, since it’s nearly all pavement. The paving blocks are very nice and since there is no sidewalk on the river side of the street it’ll definitely come in handy for walkers.
    In practice, many people will probably continue walking in the street purely out of habit. I was at an outdoor table on Sisowath recently and saw a lot of people walking on the street even though the sidewalk was largely clear and usable. Some, the Barangs especially, seemed very uncomfortable with vehicles passing by them so closely and sometimes speedily but still didn’t think to move over to the sidewalk. I guess people have become so used to walking in the street the sidewalk just didn’t occur to them'.
    He also reveals why there are disabled ramps were built on Norodom:
    'Norodom, in fact, has gotten a lot worse with the disabled ramps that were recently installed. Now motorbikes have an easy way to use the sidewalk to avoid heavy traffic. They’ll come right at you expecting you to move out of their way. Hey Dude! This is the sidewalk UNDERSTAND - so have a little respect. I can definitely see the importance of society being more conscious of the needs of the handicapped, but in this case it didn’t work out very well, especially since it’s hardly ever used by the people it was intended to serve'.
    All in all a great entry on transportation in Cambodia.
  • With the railways nearing complete dereliction, it's astounding that there is still freight getting moved, though with a downward trend.
  • Car dealers are also feeling the pinch. The good news:
    'I am not that negative about the economy. As long as people have food to eat, there will be demand for cars.'
    Let's hope there will be no famine then.
  • Haze? Here in Phnom Penh?
    'Have you ever wondered how much time gets knocked off your life expectancy when you're stuck in Phnom Penh traffic, behind an antiquated truck spewing thick, black smoke into your face?'
    Find the answer in this Phnom Penh Post article.
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