Trash Piles Will Get Picked Up, Eventually

Phnom Penh’s sole garbage hauler says it will need another week to collect thousands of tons of fetid garbage that piled up over the weekend when workers left the capital to vote in Sunday’s commune elections.

Ninety percent of the company’s workers took advantage of paid time off to cast ballots in their hometowns on Sunday, and about 30 percent to 40 percent also took off Saturday and Monday, said Tith Chanda, operations manager for Cintri, the government-paid trash collector.

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A pile of garbage lines Street 53 in Phnom Penh’s Daun Penh district on Tuesday. (Siv Channa/The Cambodia Daily)

Workers registered to vote in far-flung provinces needed two to three days to travel, so “we have had this issue since June 3,” Mr. Chanda said on Tuesday.

The 10 percent who collected trash on Sunday focused on polling stations and main roads and markets, he said, leaving about 2,000 tons of reeking garbage piling up on the city’s streets, attracting rats in some areas.

During public holidays, the company can offer employees more money to keep them on the job, but no such option exists for the election, Mr. Chanda said. “We can’t force them to work on Election Day, because those workers, they need to vote, too,” he added.

City Hall spokesman Met Measpheakdey agreed that the mess was unavoidable.

During “public holidays we can…pay extra money for them to work,” he said. “But this is the obligation to vote—we can’t stop them. By the way, we encourage or make it convenient for them to go to vote.”

Kroem Dina, a garbage truck driver who was back at work in Chamkar Mon district on Tuesday morning, said he took two days off to vote in Kompong Cham province. On his way back through the city, he said, he was greeted by the neglected waste.

“All this garbage is the garbage that we didn’t collect during the elections,” he said.

Mao Chhiv Srun, the owner of a True money transfer in Daun Penh district, complained that the lack of Cintri trucks over the past few days had left a bad smell over his shop.

“I really wonder why the trucks do not come to pick up the garbage. It has been here for three days already,” he said.

The smell was affecting people’s health as well as their businesses, Mr. Chhiv Srun said.

“The big pile of garbage in front my shop like this can’t make any business,” he said.

Soeung Saran, executive director of urban housing NGO Sahmakum Teang Tnaut, said there should have been more organization between Cintri and the municipality, as well as with the local community.

“You can see local people cleaning up,” he said. “It can be very helpful when the local people and government work together.”

(Additional reporting by Hannah Hawkins)

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