Hun Sen Bemoans Blackouts, Traffic Jams in Phnom Penh

In a meeting with the Mayor of Paris on Tuesday, Prime Minister Hun Sen expressed his concern for the flailing state of infrastructure in Phnom Penh, which he said is unable to accommodate its residents’ increasing demands.

During a conversation with Ber­trand Delanoe, who arrived in Cambodia on Tuesday for meetings with the prime minister and Phnom Penh Governor Kep Chuktema for the International Association of French-Speaking Mayors, Mr. Hun Sen said Phnom Penh was grappling with a host of burdens from blackouts to chronic congestion.

“[Mr. Hun Sen said] the expansion has led to issues such as electricity shortages, serious traffic jam conditions, trash problem, and an inadequate water system that is necessary to connect to the newly developed areas,” said Eang So­phalleth, a personal assistant to the prime minister.

Mr. Sophalleth added that the prime minister had also brought up that the government was looking for help from the private sector with fighting fires.

Nicolas Baudouin, first secretary at the French Embassy, said Mr. Delanoe had noted that these are problems faced by many rapidly developing cities in Southeast Asia.

“Mr Delanoe recalled that…the city of Paris was ready to assist the city of Phnom Penh in these areas,” Mr. Baudouin said in an email.

Mr. Hun Sen’s admonishment of Phnom Penh’s dire conditions comes two months after it was revealed that Mr. Chuktema will step down from his position this year to stand for election in Parliament. Mr. Hun Sen said in January that Mr. Chuktema had reached the mandatory retirement age of 60.

When asked for the reasons behind Mr. Chuktema’s resignation, Long Dimanche, City Hall spokesman, said: “So far, there hasn’t been any official statement on the resignation of the governor so I can’t elaborate on it until I receive an official statement.”

Egami Masahiko, a representative of the Japan International Cooperation Agency—which has provided technical assistance and funding for numerous infrastructure projects since 1993—said the situation is only getting worse as Phnom Penh expands.

“It takes time and money but these are problems that cannot wait be­cause of the serious situation in Phnom Penh, like the traffic jams or the lack of electricity,” Mr. Egami said.

City authorities should do more to ensure that residents do not litter and follow the trash collection schedules, said Seng Chamroeun, deputy director of Cintri, the private trash collection company contracted by City Hall to empty the bins.

He added that citizens need more support from City Hall on com­posting and recycling programs to combat the growing mounds of trash in the city.

“We have all the plans to do this, but the government does not support this move and it is not easy and it is a big investment,” Mr. Chamroeun said.

The Municipal Fire Department also faces problems extinguishing the growing number of fires in the city, said Neth Vantha, municipal fire department chief. So far in 2013, there have been 37 fires in Phnom Penh, which have killed three people and injured seven.

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