Friday, April 8, 2011

The way things are done

Riverfront pavement cleared of restaurant tables and chairs
Today the police made the rounds on the Phnom Penh riverfront, once again ordering restaurants and bars to pull their sidewalk seating back inside. This has been an on-going battle between the police and the riverfront caf├ęs for several years. It's never made much sense to me. The riverfront is perhaps the most popular tourist area in the city. Many tourists and other diners prefer the sidewalk seating to being trapped indoors - to enjoy the view of the riverfront scene, the sights, the sun, the air, Sambo the elephant walking by. Presumably this clearing is done to keep the path open for pedestrians, though for years the restaurants have been particularly careful to leave at least half the sidewalk clear for passers-by. I walk the riverfront everyday and though there are plenty of obstacles I have never had my path encumbered by sidewalk seating. 

That aside, the police have cleared the riverfront sidewalk of all restaurant tables and chairs. Where yesterday there were happy tourists swigging mugs of cold Angkor beer, there is now enough space for a two-lane tuk-tuk highway. And what was left after they cleared the riverfront of this offending tourist draw?

 Motorcycle parking...

Luxury vehicles and tuk-tuks blocking the crosswalks...

Child beggars/vendors and more tuk-tuks blocking the crosswalks...

Luxury car parking...

Vans loading coffins...

More motorcycles and scaffolding...

Racks of clothes...

...and plenty of room to park your car.

But to be sure, there was no sidewalk seating on the pavement. Nor were there any tourists sitting in that non-existent seating spending their tourist dollars. If nothing else, the police accomplished that much. As for the luxury vehicles on the sidewalk, the motorcycles and cars, the exploited children, the tuk-tuks blocking the crosswalks and so on, well, the authorities have their priorities.

3 comments:

  1. I had this all explained to me once and now I more or less forget what I was told. I think I remember a Khmer friend explaining that his business owned the third of the footpath nearest the wall and the sangkat owned the rest. This was what entitled him to park his motorbike there. There's also the thing with putting a line of potplants down from your shop-boundary to the curb to mark off your footpath space. All in all, it's quite a different attitude to the one we know in the West.

    As for the anti-table drive, I don't know, but I suspect it's to do with the sense of national shame that Phnom Penh doesn't look like Bangkok. The city authorities want a nice civilised riverfront like in Bangkok. You'll notice that the anti-table drive doesn't apply anywhere else in town. Casey, could you please look into this further, I'd really like to know what's behind it.

    ReplyDelete
  2. I believe that is called or is a variation on the "five foot way" rule, whereby in the construction of colonial era 'Chinese shophouse' style buildings, the ground floor was extended by means of an awning, under which the householder was able to control that pavement space for purposes of his business. Though the 'five foot way' rule was tradition, I don't know if it has made its way in any formal sense into modern Cambodian law.

    ReplyDelete
  3. Just make sure you have cop friends who are able to warn you about this crap in time to save some of your investment then deal with it until the heat lets up. dealt with this shit for years and nothing ever changes. Side streets, mini marts etc. exempt.

    ReplyDelete