Despite Improvements, Bad Roads Persist Still Plague

Bad road conditions and ongoing construction continue to make travel inconvenient in several provinces, motorists and officials agree.

Illustrating the problem were hundreds of trucks stranded on National Route 5 in Battambang province’s Mong Russei district from Sat­urday until Tuesday be­cause of a hazardous bridge detour.

Only small cars were able to navigate the detour, and even they needed to hire people to guide their cars, stranded motor­ists said.

Drivers admit, however, that the road conditions are far better than they have been in previous years.

“Today we are rebuilding the old roads, and at the end of 2003 it will be easier for people to run on most of the main roads, but I am worried that rain and floods could affect them,” Ministry of Public Works and Transport Director-General Chhin Kong Hean said.

“We have no plans to construct new roads because the Cambo­dian government has no funds. It will be years before we can do this,” he said.

Chhin Kong Hean attributes the poor condition of Cambodia’s roads to damage from “20 years of war.”

Bun Thorn, a taxi driver who regularly makes the run from Battambang to Phnom Penh, said last weekend that he was “very scared” to drive across the bridge in Mong Russei. “I have never encountered it like this since I have been making runs on this road,” he said.

Ien Chanda, a passenger in a taxi on National Route 5, said Saturday that she had to ask the driver to let her out of the car because she was afraid the cab would fall off the road into an adjacent canal. “It was terrible,” she said.

Moung Poy, deputy governor of Ratanakkiri province, said Mon­day that the road from Ban­lung to Stung Treng prov­ince, which was rehabilitated in 2001, is also problematic.

“The road is very bad. It takes six hours to get from Ratanakkiri. to Stung Treng. A few months ago it only took two hours,” he said.

Good roads “are important for people, business and tourism. If the road is good, everything will be cheaper. We will gain time and cut expenses,” Muong Poy said.

The Asian Development Bank began the much-needed rehabilitation of national routes 5, 6 and 7 with a $68 million loan in 1999.

Other donors have also funded road projects in recent years, in­cluding National Route 1, rural roads and major Phnom Penh boulevards.

Prime Minister Hun Sen has said that road building and rehabilitation is one of the government’s top priorities.


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