Ashtray Boy

Ashtray Boy

A quiet Sunday morning so I walked down the street to the Foreign Correspondents’ Club. The coffee costs four times that of street cafes but I could do with a little view to start my Sunday right.

Was lazily going over some notes for a project when I heard an all-too familiar ‘crunch‘ of an accident on the street below. A motorbike had hit a mini-van. As always, a crowd assembled to surround the mini-van and motorcycle.

No idea who was at fault. One of the young boys on the motorbike struggled to get his friend out from underneath.
(#1 rule from Boy Scouts – don’t move an injured person, they could have a spinal injury!)
Here in Cambodia though medical care is pretty much ‘user pays’, so no one could expect an ambulance soon. The usual practice is to drag the injured person off the road.

The kids had a nice bike and nice clothes though. The conscious kid tried to make out if his friend was alive. He began hitting his chest in what I can only consider a parody of CPR. We’ve seen it in enough movies, but who has actually tried it? Eventually the blows went down to the stomach.

As the two boys moved off to the shade of a tree at the roadside, all eyes were on them in the crowd of about twenty people. Meanwhile the van driver hadn’t stepped out of his car. I looked at the crowd move away, he looked at the crowd move away… and he did exactly what I expected.

As the van eased into the road, almost without thinking I leaned over and grabbed one of the big glass ashtrays from the FCC balcony. And threw it at the van as it turned left down street 178, going right past us. It hit the pavement about a meter away (didn’t even break!), and the car slowly continued down the empty street. Never done anything like that before; I should have simply ran down and gotten the license number.

I apologized for throwing the ashtray and was told ‘that’s OK’. Paid for my coffee, went downstairs and by this time someone had called an ambulance.

The kid was alive, but how bad off, no one was sure. And that was it, the crowd slowly began to disperse.

I’ve seen too many ‘hit and run’ accidents in Cambodia. The drivers always drive off, if they can. One evening I saw a Camry racing through the Psar Thmei / Monivong intersection, with a motorbike lodged underneath trailing a shower of sparks.

‘Rule of law’ is often used to apply to the government and large scale criminality, but the lack of a good system shows itself in small moments like these. Sigh.

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