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Logo of Phnom Penh Post newspaper Phnom Penh Post - Bridging the gap between common sense and madness

Bridging the gap between common sense and madness

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Dealing with unyielding bureaucracy is a practiced ritual for many expats in Siem Reap, but nearly getting trapped in his own home by an over-enthusiastic excavation team was one step too far for  Siem Reap resident Ota Veverka.

Ota, a Czech photographer, lives on a property where the only access is via a dirt bridge over a small canal, but he woke up on Tuesday morning last week to find an excavator digging away his only bridge.

Content image - Phnom Penh Post
Excavators digging out the canal on either side of Ota's access bridge. Photograph: Alistair Walsh

Korean engineering firm, Kumho E&C, has been significantly widening and concreting the canal to turn it into a flood channel, and saw his bridge as just another blockage to be excavated.

Ota says he and his landlord asked the construction workers to stop removing their bridge, but the worker refused until harangued by Ota and the landlord.

“He just kept digging away at the bridge, until finally we got him to stop. But then the Korean foreman started shouting at him and the guy just jumped back in the digger and started attacking the bridge,” Ota says.

“We were shouting at him, but he kept going until my landlord got so angry he threw a bucket of water on him. Then he stopped.”

There was then heated discussion with the site managers as to what the plan with the bridge was.

“I said what about how do we go to our jobs in the city, hospital whatever? And the guy said they have no plan,” Ota says.

The managers were unwilling to formulate a resolution, saying replacing the bridge was not their responsibility.

Although unwilling to talk to Ota, the workers begrudgingly agreed to not dig the bridge out that day.

The Insider arrived on the scene the next morning. The bridge was still intact, though it had a few a chunks taken out of it. Korean workers at the site were particularly unfriendly.

Attempts to communicate were met with turned backs and a wall of silence. That is until the camera came out and workers tried to stop photos being taken.

Attempts to speak to the company were fruitless, until an engineer spoke to The Insider and said the bridge was the government’s problem, but management would come to speak to Ota and the landlord soon.

The company has now agreed to a solution. Workers will demolish part of the wall surrounding the property, allowing Ota and other residents to exit via a circuitous route over soft dirt, before they rebuild the bridge in February.

Meanwhile work continues on the canal with countless other houses to face similar circumstances. Eventually work will continue up the canal to other bridges standing in the way of progress.

Ota says he understands the flood channel needs to be completed before the rainy season starts, but that removing his bridge is simply unacceptable.

For now he’s waiting until February to see if his bridge does get rebuilt.​ ​

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