Saturday, 4 June 2016

Hun Sen's Correlation Quandary

“There were four white days, meaning there were no people dying for four days… This has never happened and it’s because we have strictly enforced the Traffic Law.”

Deputy Premier and Interior Minister Sar Kheng, 27 May 2017, The Phnom Penh Post

“In fact, academics and government researchers have written numerous papers that attempt to explain the relationship between corruption and traffic accidents. Their conclusions aren’t uniform, but together they present a compelling case that there is a real connection between the two.”

Quartz reporter, Christopher Groskopf, Quarts, 23 April 2016

“I also get treatment in Cambodia from Cambodian doctors. However, Cambodian doctors recommended that I get my medical checkup abroad in order to identify some types of diseases that we do not have equipment for… Just because I have a medical checkup in Singapore, it does not mean that I do not have trust in Cambodian doctors.”

Premier Hun Sen, 19 January 2016, The Phnom Penh Post

“Samdech Kralahom [Kheng] contributes 4,000 riel [sic] [about $1] per day to nearly 3,500 traffic police. Samdech uses his own money to pay for the expense... I don’t know when it [the daily bonus] will end.”

Director of the public order department at the Ministry of Interior Run Roth Veasna, 29 February 2016, The Phnom Penh Post

Sar Kheng gets excited with his success in achieving four days of no traffic deaths, for which he coins a new term, “white day”. By choosing the colour code, it is uncertain if Sar Kheng hints a leadership challenge to Hun Sen, who has been so agitated by the colour bogey.

However, the accolade lasts only a few hours. A road collision in Svay Rieng kills two and sends seventy-five passengers to hospitals with some serious injuries, turning his white days into “black”. He must feel gutted, while Hun Sen might be delighted for overcoming another colour.

Sar Kheng may not know that researches show links among traffic death, income per capita, and rule of law. One of those studies indicates the traffic death will keep going north until the income per capita hits $10,000 before declining. Hence, the current income of $1,000 will have to rise tenfold before the death number drops. Given that it has taken Hun Sen more than three decades from Year Zero to reach the current level, it will likely take almost forever to reach the $10,000 mark.

Anyhow, that should not deter Hun Sen from trying to increase the average income.

One way to do this is to reduce the number of the poor. Traffic deaths can somewhat contribute to this drive. The number of deaths in 2015 is 2,265 with an annual increase of 7.8%, most of whom are arguably poor.

An inferior public health service is another way to reduce the poor’s number. The local healthcare is so mediocre that Hun Sen favours overseas services even for regular general check-ups. His local doctors who may either doubt their own capability or just simply cover their hide recently send him to Singapore where his doctor there prescribes “more golf”. Hun Sen lies when he implies he trusts domestic doctors. The local health system will remain tawdry until the premier puts his health and life solely on it. Otherwise, the local healthcare will continue to shorten the poor’s life expectancy, or keep them sick.

A more effective measure to raise the income per capita is to disregard rule of law, giving corruption a carte blanche. For instance, Sar Kheng, whose legitimate monthly income is about $2,500, could hardly explain how he affords to pay 3,500 traffic police officers daily bonuses that totals to approximately $532,000 from 1 January to end of May, unless his generosity has ended earlier. Sar Kheng is not alone, however, considering wealth and extravagence flaunted by his cohort.

Thus, here is the Hun Sen’s correlation quandary. A lower traffic death ties in with a higher income which in turn goes well with lawlessness; and this lawlessness is exactly what leads to a higher traffic fatality. Hun Sen’s win-win does not work in a circular link.

Therefore, he will continue with the current option: more money for him and his personal interest groups, no rule of law, and the poor whose lives are treated with such contempt anyway must remain dispensable.

Ung Bun Ang

By The Way

Hun Manith is correct: his father has no pepper spray, no big horses, and no fancy body armour. There is no need for any of those stuff – he has bullets. Dead protesters cannot think once, let alone twice.

“I don’t think we can afford the pepper spray like the rich countries when tackling a protest. We don’t have big horses to deter the protester. We don’t have fancy body armor like they [US] do to make the protester think twice before deciding to continue longer.”

Director of the Defence Ministry’s military intelligence unit Gen Hun Manith, 2 June 2016, The Khmer Times

Should you wish to receive Pseng-Pseng on your screen as soon as it is released, subscribe to it at

Pseng-Pseng is published irregularly. Previous issues are archived at

No comments:

Post a Comment