If you happen to travel around the Independence Monument, you will notice a big sign stating that “Phnom Penh is a charming city”, reinforcing the capital’s attractiveness to foreign tourists.
What I notice, however, is that some Cambodians devalue the slogan by making a mess of the city.
You may think that throwing rubbish on the road is common in Cambodia, but you should know that a nice city is dependent on each individual.
One of the most noticeable behaviour patterns of some Cambodian people is that they don’t have the habit of putting their rubbish in the bin.
Do you ever have the idea of keeping your rubbish in your pocket whenever you cannot find the bin? I guess there is not a lot, but it is a good example-setting activity which can beautify our city.
Throwing rubbish from car windows or from other transport is another immoral activity that I notice. It does not happen a lot in the city, but it does along the way to the other provinces, and some people even drop heavy objects like coconuts.
In the worst cases, this can lead to serious traffic accidents.
People should resolve to keep their rubbish in their car until they find a bin.
Another example is the throwing of cigarettes onto the road.
People get in this habit because they don’t think about its effect on the environment and the potential to cause fires or traffic accidents.
Another problem is the widespread habit of spitting on the road. Some people spit and blow their nose anywhere they like without thinking about the surrounding people.
These are both bad habits which may cause people visiting the city to take notice. I don’t think any of us want our city to have this kind of reputation.
I notice that the current awareness campaigns in the media directed at littering, cigarette throwing and spitting are not effective at all. There should be more useful awareness raising to wean people off these bad activities.
In May 2010, the Phnom Penh Municipality began issuing fines for those who throw rubbish in public places, but I notice that there is no enforcement at all. I also recommend that the municipality organises and puts bins everywhere they are needed to make it easy for people to dispose of their rubbish.
In September 2010, Prime Minister Hun Sen appealed to both tourists and the general public to stop discarding rubbish in the streets due to the fact that it could contribute to the clogging of drains and cause floods after heavy rains.
He issued his call during a ceremony in the capital marking the completion of the second phase of a US$30 million flood prevention and drainage improvement project funded by Japan.
“If people put their rubbish in plastic bags and put them in rubbish bins, the benefit will go to them, not to [Phnom Penh Governor] Kep Chuktema, as they will keep their city clean,” he said at the time.
Regarding this issue, Mi Bolyvann, 21, a third year student of the University of Health Science, said, “I see the spitting and throwing of rubbish on the street, and I’m not happy with this activity because it does not only affect me, but other locals, foreign travelers and environment,” adding that some international tourists are wary of visiting Cambodia and it will damage the country’s prestige.