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Logo of Phnom Penh Post newspaper Phnom Penh Post - Lights, roads, action as ASEAN looms

Lights, roads, action as ASEAN looms

Keen-eyed citizens of Phnom Penh will have noticed the municipality's frenetic efforts

to improve the look of the capital. From paving the main streets to erecting traffic

lights that count down the impatient driver's waiting time, you could be forgiven

for thinking this was to wow the imminent influx of the region's leaders for November's

ASEAN summit.

Not so, says Governor Chea Sophara. The beautification exercise - an ongoing mission

of his - has simply coincided with the meeting. But he acknowledges that removing

the potholes from the city's main roads will improve the country's image.

"We wanted smooth city streets as part of the development plan for our city

in 2002," he said. "My plan was not to have these developments to please

ASEAN's leaders - [the meeting] happens to have coincided with our plans."

Nhem Saran, director of the public works department, says the government has given

$12 million to redo 31 major arteries, which should ease congestion.

Twenty-one have been upgraded, with work continuing on the rest. And the Chinese

government has loaned $3 million to install six modern traffic lights, says Saran,

and for the appropriate task of repaving Mao Tse Tung Blvd. That runs past the city's

largest hotel, the Intercontinental, which will be the temporary home of many delegates.

"These traffic lights are not modern for developed countries," he says

of the countdown system, "but they are new for us. If all drivers understand

these lights, that will help reduce traffic jams."

However understanding the lights and obeying them are two different things. Saran

said that when the municipality tested drivers about the new lights, only half understood

what they were about. The rest, he admitted, are still ignoring the fact that a red

light means stop, a state of affairs that will doubtless linger long after the delegates

have gone home.



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