Residents say the dilapidated road linking province to Thailand has become all but impassable.
Residents of Thma Puok commune in Banteay Meanchey province say a main road in the area, donated by the UN Office of the High Commissioner for Refugees in 1993, has fallen into disrepair and brought traffic to to a snarled halt.
The gravel road has received maintenance only once since it first opened, and residents say it is now almost impossible to navigate. But long-awaited repairs are due to commence next month, officials said.
Chhuoy Cheab, a villager from Thma Puok commune, said the repairs were crucial for him and his fellow residents because the road is their only link with the Boeung Trakuon border crossing into Thailand, through which locals export their agricultural goods.
“Traffic along the road has slowed to a crawl because it is very slippery and bumpy, with many big, deep potholes, made even worse by all the trucks moving between the two countries every day. In my opinion, the road is damaged from lack of proper maintenance. It was repaired only once, in 2007, but the situation is still very bad. This year, it was worse than ever.”
Sean Soeu, a villager from the same commune, said: “When it rains, some of the potholes can flood to knee- or waist-depth, which makes car or truck travel impossible. The only time the road was passable was a three-month period when it was repaired before the last commune council election.”
Thma Puok commune Chief Kol Mork said that provincial authorites were hoping to begin paving the road in October, but that “work could be delayed because the private company which is responsible for building the road is still looking for a place to keep its construction materials”.
UNHCR official Ly Sophat said that the road was a donation to Thma Puok from the agency, but that it no longer fell under the organisation’s purview.
“The UNHCR has no budget plans to renovate the road at all,” Ly Sophat said.
At 20 kilometres long and 8 metres wide, the road to the Thai border also runs through Treas Kouk Kathen and Phum Thmey communes of Thma Puok district and Phkaom and Phas Sarongk communes of Svay Chek district. Residents of these communes report similar conditions
throughout their stretches of the road.