Interior Minister Sar Kheng publicly chided the Transportation Ministry yesterday over the poor quality of National Road 8 and the ministry’s failure to maintain the eastbound highway that cuts across Prey Veng province, where Kheng is the head of the ruling CPP’s working group.
The minister was attending the Ministry of Transportation and Public Work’s annual review meeting in Phnom Penh, where he said the public frequently criticised the ministry’s failure to maintain the quality of the country’s roads, specifically pointing to National Road 8.
“National Road 8, connecting from National Road 6A to National Road 7, is newly constructed, but it is more dilapidated than other older roads,” Kheng said. “This National Road 8 has received maintenance more frequently, but the quality is not ensured.”
He said that in order to win over commuters and the general public, it was critical to ensure the quality of roads. Additionally, Kheng also called on the ministry to increase its efforts to crackdown on overloaded trucks that have caused road deterioration.
Transportation Minister Sun Chanthol yesterday did not address Kheng’s criticisms, and only read out the ministry’s report, which showed that more than 923,000 trucks were inspected for potential overloading, and that 2,953 paid fines totalling $1.4 million over last year.
Ministry spokesman Va Sim Sorya yesterday hung up on a reporter, and his colleague Chan Dara said he was not adequately informed about the issue to comment.
Yos Sam Oeun, the head of the Public Works Department in Ksach Kandal district, which is home to part of National Road 7, claimed the road was regularly maintained, though he stopped short of assessing its quality.
“I do not dare to evaluate if it is damaged unless you come and inspect the road with me,” he said.
However, Chea Leng, the district’s administrative chief, was more forthcoming, saying overloaded trucks had left the road potholed.
“The heavy trucks were overloaded and that damaged our road, and Samdech [Sar Kheng] talked about this rightly,” he said.
National Road 7 was constructed by the Chinese firm Shanghai Construction Group and inaugurated in 2012. China has made a major investment push in infrastructure and road construction in Cambodia, with the two countries recently signing a memorandum of understanding to develop an expressway from Phnom Penh to Sihanoukville.
But, San Chey, head of accountability NGO ANSA, said Chinese construction quality had been found wanting when compared to projects funded by the United States or Japan.
“Without proper checking, the Chinese companies can do whatever they want to,” he said.