Saturday, February 8, 2014

11. Fuel in Cambodia

The French TOTAL gas stations whwre I fill up.

The Cambodia (Government) SOKIMEX which is much cheaper.

Other than the northern neighbor Laos where I just came from, Cambodia has a dense grid of gas stations. 

There are the three international companies, the French TOTAL, Anglo-Dutch SHELL, and the U.S. CALTEX (CHEVRON). However the local companies KAMPUCHEA TELA Ltd. and SOKIMEX have a large distribution network of gas stations as well. 

I try to fill up always either at TOTAL or CALTEX, using their "Super" high-octane fuel since I found especially SOKIMEX to be of inferior quality, possibility doing damage to the BMW engine.

Since I had bad experiences with SOKIMEX, I researched the company a bit. Many aspects of this "public" company are shrouded in mystery, and other than any public company in the world SOKIMEX also doesn't seem to publish any business data (and according to the local press, doesn't pay taxes either.). The web side is one of the more opaque ones I have seen from any company. Many aspects remain unclear, also where they source their crude oil from. It seems to be refined in Vietnam, which doesn't improve it's quality.

SOKIMEX is Cambodia's largest company. Despite my rule not to buy any gasoline from them, I nevertheless supported their "bottom line" since I visited Angkor Wat. Interestingly, SOKIMEX collects all of the proceeds from entry tickets to this UNESCO World Heritage Site, which are estimated to be between U.S. $ 50 million and 200 million per year ( The money seems to go, like all other oil and gasoline business revenue directly into the coffers of the ruling Cambodia People's Party (CPP) ( SOKIMEX also owns construction, hotel and other companies.

Sokha Hotel (SOKIMEX) under construction since a long time.

A brand new, ugly chunk of an hotel is under construction which ruins the beautiful confluence peninsula of Mekhong and Tonle Sap rivers, right across from the heart of Phnom Penh. It is a SOKIMEX investment as well. The hotel is a bit remote, since one needs to ride the tuk-tuk from down town all the way down to cross the Japan-financed Chroy Changvar Bridge (currently a second, China-financed bridge will double its capacity. The work is almost completed.) On the other side of the river, one has to travel all the way back to the tip of the peninsula. Not very convenient. 

 Chroy Changvar Bridge 

Site of requested new bridge to downtown, historic district and Palace in the center of picture.

The investor SOKIMEX which has excellent connections to the top echelon of the government asked some time ago for a new, second  Chroy Changvar Bridge to be build connecting the hotel site directly with the historic downtown across from the Tonle Sap river. Miraculously, this was denied. If granted, it would have destroyed the Royal Palace area and all neighboring sites. 

Now SOKIMEX has to wait and see whether they can fill the rooms of this grey monstrosity with guests. The one's which will come will get stuck at least twice per day in the permanent traffic jams of the old Chroy Changvar bridge.

Another much smaller bridge which is now demolished was in the news a few years back. It is now demolished. More than 300 people died, either of electrocution by loose lighting wires or in a stampede during the Phnom Penh Water Festival in 2010. The press reports that the problems started with a stampede, but whoever of the locals I talked to here in Phnom Penh said that the initial cause was the electrocution of the people near, or at the metal railings which subsequently caused the stampede.

Site of the tragedy, former bridge across the Bassak river, now demolished. New concrete bridge in background.

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