Bad Road Hinders Commerce

The horrific condition of the road linking Siem Reap town and Poipet is hampering commerce in the Angkor boomtown, as trucks carrying vital loads of construction supplies and even food get stuck along the pitted dirt track, locals and officials say.

“Poipet to Sisophon, that is about 50 km, this part is no problem,” said Jean-Yves Briand, Siem Reap/Poipet manager for shipper Narita Transport. “But Sisophon to Siem Reap, this 100 km sometimes can take two or three days.”

The road—the only direct land route from Thailand—floods in sev­en different places, each at least 100 meters across, during the rainy season, said Uk Chan, un­dersecretary of state for the Min­istry of Public Works and Trans­port. Budget tourists who brave the land crossing describe wading through lakes of knee-deep mud, luggage held over their heads, from a car on one side to a pickup or van on the other.

Briand said the road’s condition drives up transport costs during the rainy season by at least 150 percent. Some cargo can’t get through for any price, he added.

“The goods are not insured, so…[local transport companies] refuse to transport fragile goods because they might break.”

Uk Chan said the provincial Department of Transportation has received funds from the ministry to fill collapsed sections with red clay. “Taxis, cars and small transport can cross, but heavy trucks, especially [those carrying] cement or stone, cannot,” he said.

He blamed such trucks for trying to get through, despite police orders to the contrary, and causing huge craters when they get stuck. But he could not say how such building materials are supposed to get to Siem Reap if trucks cannot use the road.

The road is finally scheduled to be fixed, starting next year and ending in 2005, thanks to a $45 million loan from the Asian De­velopment Bank, country director Urooj Malik said. It will be the last finished segment in a regional corridor stretching through Cambodia from the Thai border to the Vietnamese Mekong Delta.


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