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Friday, April 18, 2008

Careless drivers blamed for high holiday road toll

Written by Khouth Sophak Chakrya

Eight killed, 21 injured in Phnom Penh

Substantially more people were killed on Phnom Penh roads this New Year than during the 2007 holiday break despite the efforts of road safety organizations and the Cambodian government, who campaigned hard to lower the holiday road toll.

Eight people were killed and 21 injured in the capital over the April 12-15 holiday period, said the deputy chief of Phnom Penh’s traffic police, Pen Khun, who blamed poor driving for most crashes.

Last Khmer New Year in Phnom Penh, only one person was killed and 20 injured during the five days from April 12-16, he said.

“Ninety-seven percent of all accidents are caused by human error, primarily drunk driving and speeding,” Khun said.

Meanwhile, the Department of Road Transportation said the number of accidents nationwide from January to March 2008 had more than doubled from the same period last year.

In Siem Reap province this New Year, there were nine traffic accidents that injured 16 people, although no fatalities were reported, Siem Reap police chief Sot Nady told the Post on April 16.

“We had eight fewer accidents this year than in 2007 because many people didn’t drive their cars during the festivities as we had bad storms at the time,” he said.

Keo Savin, director of the Department of Road Transportation, said roads were becoming more crowded and this was contributing to a higher rate of crashes in general.

From January until the end of March, 421 people were killed on Cambodian roads and a further 3,003 injured, compared with 206 fatalities and 2,122 injured in the first three months of 2007, according to the department’s figures.

“The sheer volume of vehicles causes accidents now,” Savin said.

From January 1 to March 31, “in the whole of Cambodia, 11,414 people received driving licenses but the number of registered vehicles went up even faster – 34,810 vehicles were registered, of which 29,049 were motorbikes,” he said.

Several NGOs and government departments issued warnings and held high-profile public ceremonies in the build-up to the Khmer New Year break in the hope of saving lives on the Kingdom’s notoriously chaotic roads.

The National Road Safety Committee on April 7 warned people to drive carefully as there is often a spike in the number of traffic accident during national festivals, particularly during Khmer New Year when thousands of families flood out of the cities in overloaded vehicles to celebrate the holiday in their home provinces.

Still, festivities got off to a bad start in Phnom Penh with five people killed in three crashes on April 13.

Pop star Sok Pisey was injured on April 14 when the car she was driving blew a tire and ran off a road in Koh Kong province, killing four passengers, including her 10-year-old sister, and injuring five others.

The 19-year-old, who had been traveling from Phnom Penh to Sihanoukville for a concert, was taken to Calmette hospital and is expected to make a full recovery.

According to the Road Traffic Accident Victim Information System (RTRAVIS), from April 12-18 last year there were 1,340 minor casualties, 74 fatalities, and 341 severe injuries nationwide.

While an accurate national tally of crashes is yet to be compiled for the holiday this year, the deputy head of the department of judicial police, Him Yan, said on 16 April he was optimistic that “traffic accidents during the Khmer New Year period for this year will be fewer than last year.”



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Govt shrugs off Thai border complaints over Preah Vihear

Written by Cat Barton and Vong Sokheng

The government on April 11 denied Thai allegations it was overstepping its boundaries at the long-disputed Preah Vihear temple that straddles the Thai-Cambodian border, in the latest bout of political jostling that has for years has prevented Cambodia from listing the ancient Hindu temple as a UNESCO world heritage site.

Although the International Court of Justice at The Hague ruled in 1962 that the temple belongs to Cambodia, the actual boundary line in the district remains unclear and the 4.6-square-kilometer area surrounding the temple is claimed by both countries.

Thailand sparked off the latest series of exchanges on April 11 when it summoned the Cambodian Ambassador to Thailand, Ung Sean, and claimed Cambodia had dispatched troops to the contested area over a month ago. This would violate a memorandum of understanding signed in 2000 by both parties which bars them from making any changes in the area before the border can be demarcated.

Ouch Borith, Secretary of State at the Cambodian Ministry of Foreign Affairs, told reporters the only armed forces deployed in the area were there to maintain the temple and provide security for visiting tourists.

“There is no confusion about the border and no overlapping area with Thailand’s territory in Preah Vihear,” Borith said. “The border was clearly mapped out in the Hague’s decision which was recognized by the international community.”

Thailand has lodged complaints before; in 2004 over the building of a road, in 2005 over the setting up of official outposts and a community, and in 2007 over the issuing of a decree to claim the area so it can be registered as a World Heritage Site.

This time, they requested Phnom Penh withdraw its armed forces and leave the area vacant until the completion of demarcation – expected in about 10 years.

Cambodia is trying to demarcate the border area itself, which requires finding 73 old markers that once signaled the border line. Since 2006, they have found 20.
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Witness to history, telegraph service set to shut down

During a recent visit to the Central Post Office on Bangrak Road, officials there proudly told me about the history of the post office building, which has been deemed to be part of the nation's cultural heritage.

Jeerawat Na Thalang

The Nation

"There's a bomb underneath the car parking lot," an official said, pointing to the parking space in front of the building. The bomb was dropped during World War II but it did not explode. Officials didn't know how to retrieve the bomb without setting it off, so they left it there after the war ended.

The monolith building was designed according to old European architectural styles and its floor is decorated with tiles from Italy. The tiles may have darkened over the years but they give a vintage look to the interior of what is known as both the Bangrak Post Office and the Central Post Office, Bangkok South.

The building has witnessed the fast-changing pace of communications technology, from the old days when postmen wore neatly ironed shirts with shining stripes and rode bicycles to deliver mail to more modern times when people on different continents can communicate via email within seconds.

From next month, this old building will witness another historical event in the evolution of technology. The telegraph service will cease to exist, with a new generation turning to new methods of communication like e-mail.

Telegraph was once one of the most popular ways to send quick messages. People used the telegraph wire to deliver hot news, such as the results of a job interview, news of a recent death or claims for debt payment. At its peak, from 1987 to 1992, more than 500,000 messages were sent by telegraph each month. But that number has declined to some 8,000 this month. CAT decided to close down the service because the cost of maintaining it was not worthwhile.

The telegraph service came to Thailand in 1875. At that time, both the French and the British offered to construct telegraph lines in Thailand. The French offered to connect the line to Saigon, while the British wanted to run a line from Bangkok to Tavoy, Burma. King Rama V eventually turned down the offers from both countries and decided that Thailand would construct its own line. Thailand launched its first line in the East, connecting Bangkok and Samut Prakan. The service was later expanded to Prachin Buri to connect with the Indochinese line in Battambang in Cambodia and Saigon in Vietnam. Later on, the service was expanded throughout Thailand.

The telegraph was in fact part of several historical events. On January 17, 1928, the Post and Telegraph Department launched the international radiotelegraphy line for the first time by using a short-wave transmission machine to send a signal to Berlin. King Rama VII sent a telegraph to the Thai ambassador in Berlin saying:

SIAMESE MINISTER BERLIN

GREETING AM GLAD TO BE ABLE TO SEND FIRST MESSAGE DIRECT BANGKOK BERLIN RADIO

PRAJADHIPOK R

During World War II, the international telegraph service - which came through Manila - was halted in December 1941. Later on, the Thai government tried to negotiate the re-launching of the service via a neutral country. On April 6, 1942, the international telegraph service was reopened as the service was connected via Geneva, Switzerland.

Postal staff said that when they were students at the Post and Telegraph School, Morse Code class was their toughest because they had to memorise how to send the code accurately. An urban legend at the school had it that some telegraph experts could receive and memorise four messages at the same time before delivering them all later.

Officials said they received incomprehensible messages frequently, which they suspected were sent by lovers. Unfortunately, quite a number of the messages sent were death notices.

"It combined the art of finger-tapping and the accuracy of the code," said Saneth Pangsapha, the 59-year-old head of the Bangkok South Post Office in Bangrak. He demonstrated how to tap the code with his flexible wrist. "Telegraph is very classic. It requires both technical skill and a human touch," he said while complaining that his wrist has turned "dusty" because he cannot move his fingers to tap the code as fast as he used to.

These days, the telegraph service section consists of 25 staff members, a reduction from some 300 when the service was more popular. The telegraph section is located on the upper floor of the Bangrak Post Office. Morse Code is no longer applied. Officials use a computerised system to send telegraphs.

Consumers can, however, fill out the telegraph forms, which they can collect from the ground floor of the post office. Pieces of the brown paper form available in a box obviously shows that the form has not been reprinted in years.

Many years ago, the telegraph office wanted to change the image of the telegraph service. "People were frightened when they received a telegraph. They thought chances were good they were about to receive death news," said Kanissorn Tongsap, another post office official. The post office introduced the idea of telegraphs sent for "friendship and goodwill". However, the campaign was not quite successful as people turned to other types of technology to send messages, such as SMS.

Thailand is not alone in closing the service, as other countries have also ended the service recently. "The other factor forcing us to close the service is that spare parts needed for telegraph equipment are no longer available," said Kanissorn. Some countries such as France, however, used telegraph services during the Iraq War because the services were deemed safer. Who knows, the abandoned telegraph poles along several main roads may be dusted off and used again.

Members of the public are invited to join the telegraph exhibition in the final week of April at the Central Post Office in Bangrak.

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ADRA Provides Food and Shelter for Fire Survivors in Cambodia

Source: Adventist Development and Relief Agency (ADRA) International
Ann Marie Stickle
Website: http://www.alertnet.org/redir/mem_out_219487/http://www.adra.org
Reuters and AlertNet are not responsible for the content of this article or for any external internet sites. The views expressed are the author's alone.

Phnom Penh, Cambodia—After a fire completely destroyed 450 homes in an impoverished section of Phnom Penh, Cambodia, on April 11, 2008, the Adventist Development and Relief Agency (ADRA) provided emergency food and shelter for 2,400 residents displaced by the disaster.

Coordinating with the mayor's office, ADRA Cambodia distributed rice, noodles, fish, salt, sugar, and vegetable oil to 520 families, or approximately 2,000 identified fire survivors, on April 12.

On April 15, ADRA expanded its response, distributing shelter and noodles for an additional 80 identified families that were also displaced by the fire, and are currently living in a make-shift internally displaced camp near the site of the tragedy.

According to authorities, the fire began at around 5 a.m. and burned for approximately 5 hours.

Due to the close proximity of the poorly constructed wooden homes, and the crowds of people escaping with their possessions, fire engines were unable to enter the area to extinguish the fire, which caused the complete destruction of all 450 homes located there, leaving behind only concrete poles.

More than 50 families were immediately moved to an open field nearby. However, more survivor families are joining the displaced persons camp each day, swelling the camp's population to more than 250 families. ADRA International, the ADRA Asia Regional Office in Bangkok, Thailand, and ADRA Cambodia are funding this response. ADRA has worked jointly with the Cambodia Adventist Mission, the Cambodia Adventist School, and Adventist Frontier Missions in packaging and distribution, and is coordinating with the mayor's office, village leaders, and other NGO partners in the relief efforts.

To assist in ADRA's response to the fire in Cambodia, please contact ADRA International at 1.800.424.ADRA (2372) or donate online to the Emergency Response Fund at www.adra.org. ADRA is present in 125 countries, providing community development and emergency management without regard to political or religious association, age, gender, race, or ethnicity. Additional information about ADRA can be found at www.adra.org. -END- Author: Ann Stickle, Associate Director for ADRA Cambodia Media Contact: Hearly Mayr ADRA International 12501 Old Columbia Pike Silver Spring, MD 20904 Phone: 301.680.6357 Mobile: 301.526.2625 E-mail: Media.Inquiries@adra.org
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