Wednesday, November 07, 2007

Not a good day

Some days just go from bad to worse. It started off well with a few giggles from my office colleagues after I showed them my blog posting – with photos – from our trip to the south coast. They seemed pretty chuffed that they were on the world wide web, so expect more postings of my work colleagues over the coming months. Then the first bombshell, a text message to say that one of my friends, Sophoin, had suffered a leg injury in a motorbike accident the previous evening and had been hospitalised. I immediately rang her and she told me through tears and pain that she had been on her way home at 9pm the previous night when a speeding moto-driver had ploughed into her moto side-on at a junction. Her leg was very badly gashed and her head hit the road as she was sent sprawling but her newly-purchased helmet had saved her from any head injuries. Luckily, she had bought the helmet the day before for $7 and boy, was that $7 well spent.

She had been released from hospital so I visited her later in the afternoon to see how she was and to find out a bit more about the accident. No bones were broken but blood from the deep gash on the shin-bone was seeping through the bandage and she was a little drowsy after taking some strong pain-killers. It turns out that not only was the driver who caused the accident driving dangerously, he was on the wrong side of the junction and had also been drinking. His moto came off badly in the crash and the police who witnessed the incident, took him briefly into custody. However, they soon realised that the driver was none other than one of the top sportsmen in Cambodia, a champion and veteran of over 200 Khmer kick-boxing matches and a famous face on television. He agreed to pay Sophoin $70 for the incident and disappeared – a small price to pay as her hospital costs, bike repairs and $10 to the police fund will easily amount to over $100, money she can ill afford to fork out.

Its clear to me that a major reason for the increase in road traffic accidents in the city is the atrocious driving skills of many of the speeding motorbike riders and equally poor car drivers. Literally, anyone can take to the road and speeding youths weaving in and out of the traffic is a common sight, as are maniacal car drivers who have no regard for the already clogged streets of Phnom Penh. I don’t have an answer, other than the introduction and enforcement of stricter driving laws (and compulsory helmet wearing) but I don’t see anything changing in the near future, so I too will be purchasing a helmet forthwith for my moto-rides around town. The facts are that four people die in Cambodia every day through road accidents and motorcyclists account for 70% of all traffic casualties.

I also received some bad news about monetary matters back in England and to cap it all, I visited one of my favourite eateries, Hagar on Street 288, just around the corner from my flat. It’s a quiet restaurant, under-utilised in my opinion, especially as they do a great $6 set-menu in the evenings and have friendly and attentive staff. But perhaps the reason for the lack of clients is the conversations one overhears. Christian missionaries, bible-thumpers, god-botherers, whatever you want to call them seem to be around every corner in Phnom Penh these days and the Hagar is one of their regular haunts (perhaps understandably as it’s a charity formed by a Swiss-based Christian organization!). But as a confirmed atheist and heathen, I have no time at all for evangelists and really don’t want to hear their inane conversations about bible practice and prayer meetings when I’m eating, well actually, at any time. So I will give the Hagar a wide berth for a while until I feel inclined to give it another chance. A crying shame as the food is so good and it’s so convenient.

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For an overview of Cambodia's education system, read this latest report from BBC's Guy de Launey. It doesn't make positive reading. However, some good news for the endangered Sarus Crane which has been given its own reserve in Takeo province by the Cambodian government, read more here.

1 comment:

Thomas Wanhoff said...

We also had an accident with a motobike driver (luckily he was not hurt) who was too fast and was not watching the traffic. Its a mess, that there are nor rules and - more important - the police is ignorant. They don't even care about basics in traffic law. Just to collect some money for their own pockets.