The launch of the water taxi and rail services this year enhanced the government’s credibility and served as an example of the efforts made by the authorities to provide good services to the public, said Transport Minister Sun Chanthol to Khmer Times in an exclusive interview.
“I would say we had a good start with the launch of new services. Let’s take a look at the water taxi services. People living in Bangkok and Paris can see the water taxis flowing along the rivers, and here we have the beautiful Mekong River and we had no water taxi.
“We launched the water taxi between Phnom Penh and Takhmao. It is air-conditioned and it has TV screens and life jackets, and so on. It is perfect. We also pushed for the railway line. These projects bring credibility to the Cambodian government and it shows that when we say something, we deliver it, on time.
“We also reconnected the railway lines between Poipet and Sisophon after 45 years of inactivity. We also connected Sisophon to Battambang. We have the shuttle to Phnom Penh’s airport, and we opened the flyover. We worked day and night for the flyover to be ready before the Khmer New Year. We showed we can deliver. We are now pushing for more inland water transportation,” said the Minister.
Mr Chanthol said he is now working on a five-year plan for the ministry of Transport, but said he could not reveal any details.
“I can say that we will deliver 80 percent of what we have planned for the first 100 days. I cannot reveal what are the plans for the next five years, but you will notice the changes that are ahead of us.
“But for the 100 days ahead and the next five-year plan, you cannot wait for the Prime Minister Hun Sen to tell you what to do. You got to take initiative. The PM wants to know what your plans are,” he said.
He told Khmer Times how proud he was of what his team has achieved in the past few months.
Under his leadership, the ministry worked very hard on several fronts, including road safety. Mr Chanthol recalled how they came up with the idea of reflective stickers for motorbikes.
“We are working hard on improving road safety. We managed to deliver 3.4 million reflective stickers – paid for by the private sector – for motorcycles, bicycles and the so-called mechanical buffalos in the provinces. We launched the campaign in August by sticking them to motorbikes, going all the way to meet the riders. Today this has reduced the accidents on the Battambang stretch.
“We also know that 80 percent of motorbike casualties occur because the riders were not using their helmets. We are launching a campaign to distribute free helmets. We are also raising funds to install speed cameras. Speeding is a big killer together with drunk-driving. We are doing some safety videos on drunk-driving, the use of seat belts and helmets and the dangers of using mobile phones while driving.
“I am not sitting on my laurels. As a public servant, I am doing what it takes to serve the people. We cannot afford this situation. It is killing too many people, we must stop that,” he said.
Among the changes made so far, the ministry distributed about 80 tuk tuks so that officials could travel the country’s thoroughfares and mark potholes in the road. This makes them easier to spot and repair. According to the minister, the scheme has helped to significantly reduce the number of potholes in the country.
He said he went to check the roads and got the contractors to put another layer where needed. “I cannot accept half-done jobs,” he said.
He said some roads needed to be enlarged and that the government removed tolls in some places. The minister blamed the chaotic situation in some roads on the relaxed attitude of some officials.
“Sometimes we are too relaxed and too nice. We allow people to build a small shop by saying ‘okay, you can do so’, but then later it becomes bigger and bigger, and more people join in. Then we end up paying them to go away. We have to straighten things out.
“We also have roads prone to flooding. I cannot take it anymore. Every year we have floods on some roads and then there are lines of parked cars that extend for two or three miles. We have to fix that too.”
Hinting at changes to come, Mr Chanthol said Cambodia will have a real tramway from Phnom Penh to the airport.
“It will be a real tramway and it is coming soon. They have tramways everywhere now in the world,” he said.
He said the ministry also inaugurated a multipurpose terminal at the port that will allow big cruise ships to berth. The port has a section that will be used as an oil platform.
“That was achieved in the last term. In the past, all the ships that came to our ports were handled manually. That will not be the case anymore. The electronic system will be in place by December next year.
“We have our national logistics master plan in the works,” he said.
To a question about trucks at the dry docks, Mr Chanthol said there is a plan to reduce pollution and the risk of accidents due to the use of old trucks.
But he said the ministry could only do so much in this area, and is pushing for companies to bring in new trucks by offering lower tax rates.
“We are working with the Ministry of Finance and the Ministry of Environment. We will impose an age limit for vehicles. We have all this in mind. We are also opening a truck driving school next month.
“I instruct the port to check the vehicles. If they are missing a taillight, they aren’t allowed to carry a container. That’s all I can do on my end. I am still trying to find ways to reduce the problems posed by older trucks and it is a tough battle,” he said.