Crossing Cambodia

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Chasing Cars, Mooncake day 2010

Highlighting Cambodia's inability in providing safety for road participants, no less than the DG of the Transport Department has explained that if Cambodia is to attain the ASEAN goal for reduction of road fatalities (in 2010), it's the international communities concern, not Cambodia's.
'“We will not achieve the goal because our capacity is still young,” Ung Chun Huor, director general of the Transportation Department at the Ministry of Public Works and Transport, said at a workshop in the capital on Friday. “We have insufficient funds and a lack of human resources to promote traffic safety.”'
He also had no clue on how much funds were already attributed to traffic safety but rest assured, traffic safety concerns are only donor driven, so what can he do? How about enforcing the law?

  • Talking of which, police are now enforcing a one way traffic sign on street 130 in Phnom Penh. It's more newsworthier than the above.
  • Along with the stoppage on major construction projects in the capital, Cambodia's first assembly plant is getting a bit late.
    'Camko finance director Lim Visal said yesterday that the plant would be ready to assemble cars by the end of the year, but declined to specify a date'.
    And Camko are not a real estate developer ....
  • More development, a new airport in Siem Reap. Just last week a pipe dream, now awaiting construction. Logic: big airport, more and bigger planes, more tourists = more money.
    But is it a good investment? Could be, but again Camko involved as well as another until now unknown company. Maybe it's still a pipedream ....
    Btw, who saw that they believe that the new airport will result in a 4 or 5 fold increase in passengers? Does it mean they don't know?
  • Again the Japanese are announcing the construction of their bridge over the Mekong. It seems to be taking for ever.
  • From the Phnom Penh Post (14 September 2010) :
    'Two technologies dear to the heart of Phnom Penh’s expat community – the tuk-tuk and free Wi-Fi – have been combined. Mobile-phone provider qb has launched 15 special tuk-tuks that are set to travel around the capital offering an internet connection to “anyone in the area”. The vehicles will also act as showrooms for qb'.
  • has a discussion on songteaws. Why possible in Thailand, not in Cambodia? Next week they will have a discussion on the use of old Mercedes buses. Why in Vietnam, not in Cambodia?
  • Flight information. India is just another country which probably won't start flights to Cambodia even though their intentions are well-meant. In the meantime Cambodia Angkor Airways (CAA) is on the way to expansion.
    'It also plans to expand operations to South Korea, China, Singapore, Bangkok and Hanoi.
    Cambodia and Vietnam are also preparing to open a new route from Da Lat, in central Vietnam, to Phnom Penh and Siem Reap, a move already approved by Cambodia’s Council of Ministers'.
    And with loads of just over 60%, a year after taking off, it's can't be deemed to be making money despite officials naming it a success. I also heard on the grapevine that CAA are still no way near to starting up flights to Sihanoukville, despite massive interest from Bangkok Air. Being a state run enterprise though means they can block that interest ...
  • An exposition of photo's of Phnom Penh communities who until recently lived on the rails.
To finish off with where we began, Phnom Penh Post had a fine article (not literally!) on the stealth tactics used by the traffic police.
'“It is important that traffic police keep safety on the road. Make sure that people respect you and the law,” Touch Naruth [Municipal Police Chief] said yesterday as he relayed a message given during his Tuesday meeting. “Don’t just stand under trees and jump out to crack down on drivers without helmets or mirrors. It’s dangerous for you and drivers on the roads.”
However, it appears not everyone agrees with the police chief’s strategy. Him Yan, director of the public order department at the Interior Ministry, said hiding behind trees is “an unavoidable strategy”.
“This strategy is to make people cease their bad habits,” Him Yan said. He said other countries also employ such measures to enforce the law.
But Long Chy, a 34-year-old motorbike-taxi driver, said that he blamed police for causing traffic accidents when trying to surprise rule-breakers.
“Police activities are much more anarchic than regular people’s,” he said'.
Well, as trees are slowly disappearing from the city, will traffic police follow?

Thursday, September 02, 2010

Chasing cars, September 2010

Somehow I had in mind to stop this blog after 5 years, which I believed would be soon. Just found out that I have just passed the 4 years! So no end in sight?
  • Rail news. Besides the news that the railway rehab is ongoing there is the news item on the company involved ordering carriages and loco's. It also seems that the company working in Cambodia has taken on a new investor in the form of local firm Royal, but that news seems to have eluded most.
  • The Phnom Penh Post once more highlights the lack of interconnecting railways in Southeast Asia.
    'The only missing link on that route is between Ho Chi Minh City and Phnom Penh'.
    Elsewhere in the same newspaper is an op-ed on the same subject:
    'In terms of trade the benefits are obvious. The new network would provide links to some of the Kingdom’s most important trade partners – China, Vietnam and Thailand. With Cambodia beginning to see large increases in its exports in recent years from a small base, this rail project could provide added impetus to the development of these industries. Furthermore, a new rail connection provides an additional transport link to key deepwater ports in Singapore and Cai Mep in southern Vietnam. Economic opportunities associated with completion of the project, therefore, also benefit industries like the garment sector, as most exports flow to these ports and on to Cambodia’s primary export markets in North America.
    Given these clear benefits to the economy, why is the government not making this project an absolute priority? Instead of resorting to the type of mentality that expects others to front the capital, Cambodia needs to consider ways it could help finance the project'.
  • Stan Kahn gives his own thoughts on the same subject.
    '... our August 20 coverage of the Mekong railway project, which included a front-page picture, an opinion column and report leave a lot to be desired. First, the opinion piece by Steve Finch lays the blame for not finishing the project solely on Cambodia, which is quite unfair considering Vietnam is also required to build new tracks. Furthermore, the huge US$1.09 billion cost of the new line, more than half of which comes from the need to construct two very expensive bridges, including one over the Mekong, is not something Cambodia could tackle on its own.
    ... it would be clear why the cost is so high. That new line starts just north of the capital, heads east and a bit north to Kampong Cham, then east all the way to Snoul, where it then makes a sharp right turn and heads south to connect with a short line in Vietnam, which should also be on the map, which comes due north from Ho Chi Minh City.
    The connection between the two major cities would be much faster and shorter if it were routed generally along Highway 1. In that case, Vietnam would be responsible for close to half the cost. The present, less-desirable routing places about 95 percent of the cost onto Cambodia, which is much less capable of shouldering the burden'.
    Maybe the Vietnamese are just smarter.
  • New rail, new roads. Not always so easy to undertake. Phnom Penh's road to the north was to be widened but after that virtually knocked down all that needed to enable the widening, PM has stepped in and said that the widening was a bit optimistic. A new problem?
    'It would now appear, however, that at least some of these families were forced to tear down their homes unnecessarily'.
  • Bridges galore. The bridge over the Mekong to make the road to Saigon seamless is to be tendered. The bridge has been waiting for ever to move forward. Scheduled date of completion 2015. Don't hold your breath.
  • New roads open, others are being blocked.
    'Around 300 villagers embroiled in a land dispute with a sugar company owned by a prominent senator blocked National Road 52 in Kampong Speu province yesterday in an effort to prevent the company’s employees from tearing down villagers’ homes'.
    With frustration with the near
    daily reports on land conflicts increasing, expect more of this.
  • Air transport. The national carrier has received it's own country license only a year after operation. Furthermore an as yet unidentified airline will seek to fly between Indonesia and Cambodia. Not direct but via Singapore, so that's no better than Silk Air, Tiger, Jetstar or Air Asia ...
Now we are moving into the more whacky part of Cambodia's traffic.
  • First of all a sorry tale:
    '23-year-old security guard has been seriously injured after he was crushed by a luxury SUV in front of a popular city cafe, according to the man’s family.
    Mom Chamroeun, who worked as a security guard in front of Gloria Jean’s coffee house in Chamkarmon district, was hospitalised after the Wednesday incident.
    “His left leg is seriously broken and has to be amputated,” said Sam Sokla, the man’s sister. “His kidney, liver and intestines are also damaged.”
    Ney Sokhay, a security guard nearby who saw the incident, said Mom Chamroeun was sitting in front of the cafe when a van collided with a Lexus. The crash sent the Lexus veering into the guard, he said.
    Gloria Jean’s Managing Director Michael Albert said the business is soliciting customer donations, which will be matched then handed to Mom Chamroeun’s family'.
  • Bricks thrown from vehicles (see also here). Police will drop the case(s) according to their own logic:
    '“We have not found the suspect.... We are not in the process of investigation,” he said. “There is no case anymore.”'
  • Finally there is Cambodia's Pocket Guide Out&About for Phnom Penh which has a section on cycling on page 50. In it besides finding out where you can buy a cycle and what to do without ending up as roadkill it mentions
    'there are plans to transform whole swathes of the capital's streets into tourist-friendly, pedestrianized areas with narrow cycle lanes'.
    Funny, it as least takes a more serious look at the advantages cycling have. Further along on page 66 a piece on staying alive which is an essential article of how to survive on Phnom Penh's roads. It involves great one-liners such as:
    '... as a foreigner you're not supposed to be here and, if you weren't then the accident would never happened'.
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