'Telepathic' car symbolises Cambodian car industry hopes

The gold-coloured convertible turns heads on impoverished Cambodia's roads -- not least because of creator Nhean Phaloek's outlandish claim that it can be operated telepathically.

(AFP) -

The gold-coloured convertible turns heads on impoverished Cambodia's roads - not least because of creator Nhean Phaloek's outlandish claim that it can be operated telepathically.

"I just snap my fingers and the car's door will open. Or I just think of opening the car's door, and the door opens immediately," says the 51-year-old as he proudly shows off the homemade car, named the Angkor 333-2010.

Onlookers gasp as he demonstrates the trick, and with the fibre-glass vehicle having cost him 5,000 dollars and 19 months of labour he is in no mood to reveal the remote control system behind it.

But as with a handful of other Cambodians who make their own curious cars, he dreams the two-seater will help foster an automobile industry in the country, still poor after decades of conflict.

"I am very excited and proud of this car because many people admire me and keep asking me about how I can make it," he says, adding that it reaches speeds of up to 100 kilometres (62 miles) per hour.

Kong Pharith, a 48-year-old former maths and physics teacher who has also produced his own car, says an auto industry is about to blossom in Cambodia.

"Our works will be part of a motivating force for the next generation to access new inventions and show the world that Cambodia has an ability to do what you think we cannot," he says.

The inventor, who first came to national attention in 2005 for building a solar-powered bicycle, thinks he has now hit on a truly unique product with his orange, jeep-like vehicle with solar panels on its roof.

Kong Pharith says it took him four months to design and put the final polish on his "tribrid" car which operates on solar energy, electricity and gasoline, hitting speeds of up to 40 kilometres per hour with its 2,000 watt motor.

"I'm really happy about my achievement but not very satisfied with it yet," he says, adding that Cambodia's lack of modern technology and materials are a minor obstacle to efficient manufacturing.

The dream of building cars in Cambodia may not be far-fetched. Officials have announced plans for South Korean automaker Hyundai to open a plant in southwestern Cambodia, assembling some 3,000 vehicles per year.

Cambodia did actually assemble cars in a factory during the 1960s, before the country was caught in the maelstrom of the Vietnam War.

During the brief manufacturing run, the car known as the "Angkor" was made from imported parts and domestically-made tyres.

Very basic Cambodian-assembled vehicles also still regularly rumble around the countryside, where approximately 80 percent of the country's 14 million people live.

Farmers often depend on "robot cows", large shop-made open-bed trucks with Chinese or Vietnamese engines, which are used to transport people and rice.

The machines, which generally cost a couple of thousand dollars, also serve as generators or water pumps when they are not heaving along pot-holed rural roads.

But in the capital Phnom Penh, elites and the nascent middle class can often be seen driving expensive imports, which are considered a symbol of status and achievement.

"(Cambodians) put more attention into their cars than the clothes they buy," says Jean Boris Roux, who imports Ford vehicles to Cambodia as the country manager for RM Asia.

"I think it's very important for Cambodians to show the success in their professional life through the vehicles they drive," he adds.

Despite the Cambodian love for cars, Roux and several other analysts say its doubtful proper domestic manufacturing will emerge here soon - especially since neighbouring Thailand remains Asia's auto assembly giant.

"It's not just about having four walls (for a factory). You need hundreds of companies supplying seats, steering wheels, hoods... This is not going to happen in Cambodia for a number of years," Roux says.

Until then, Nhean Phaloek says he will keep making cars at home.

The Angkor 333-2010 is the third has built, and his first to talk. When he slams the door a voice out of the dashboard moans: "Why do you close me too strongly?"

"Dozens of local and foreign guests have come and seen my car," Nhean Phaloek says with a smile. "One British man told me that it is the Cambodian James Bond car."

Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

SPONSORED FEATURES

ES Rentals

    iJobs Job Widget
    iJobs General

    Recruitment Genius: Senior Environmental Adviser - Maternity Cover

    £37040 - £43600 per annum: Recruitment Genius: The UK's export credit agency a...

    Recruitment Genius: CBM & Lubrication Technician

    £25000 - £27500 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This company provides a compreh...

    Recruitment Genius: Care Worker - Residential Emergency Service

    £16800 - £19500 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Would you like to join an organ...

    Recruitment Genius: Senior Landscaper

    £25000 - £28000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: In the last five years this com...

    Day In a Page

    Refugee crisis: David Cameron lowered the flag for the dead king of Saudi Arabia - will he do the same honour for little Aylan Kurdi?

    Cameron lowered the flag for the dead king of Saudi Arabia...

    But will he do the same honour for little Aylan Kurdi, asks Robert Fisk
    Our leaders lack courage in this refugee crisis. We are shamed by our European neighbours

    Our leaders lack courage in this refugee crisis. We are shamed by our European neighbours

    Humanity must be at the heart of politics, says Jeremy Corbyn
    Joe Biden's 'tease tour': Could the US Vice-President be testing the water for a presidential run?

    Joe Biden's 'tease tour'

    Could the US Vice-President be testing the water for a presidential run?
    Britain's 24-hour culture: With the 'leisured society' a distant dream we're working longer and less regular hours than ever

    Britain's 24-hour culture

    With the 'leisured society' a distant dream we're working longer and less regular hours than ever
    Diplomacy board game: Treachery is the way to win - which makes it just like the real thing

    The addictive nature of Diplomacy

    Bullying, betrayal, aggression – it may be just a board game, but the family that plays Diplomacy may never look at each other in the same way again
    Lady Chatterley's Lover: Racy underwear for fans of DH Lawrence's equally racy tome

    Fashion: Ooh, Lady Chatterley!

    Take inspiration from DH Lawrence's racy tome with equally racy underwear
    8 best children's clocks

    Tick-tock: 8 best children's clocks

    Whether you’re teaching them to tell the time or putting the finishing touches to a nursery, there’s a ticker for that
    Charlie Austin: Queens Park Rangers striker says ‘If the move is not right, I’m not going’

    Charlie Austin: ‘If the move is not right, I’m not going’

    After hitting 18 goals in the Premier League last season, the QPR striker was the great non-deal of transfer deadline day. But he says he'd preferred another shot at promotion
    Isis profits from destruction of antiquities by selling relics to dealers - and then blowing up the buildings they come from to conceal the evidence of looting

    How Isis profits from destruction of antiquities

    Robert Fisk on the terrorist group's manipulation of the market to increase the price of artefacts
    Labour leadership: Andy Burnham urges Jeremy Corbyn voters to think again in last-minute plea

    'If we lose touch we’ll end up with two decades of the Tories'

    In an exclusive interview, Andy Burnham urges Jeremy Corbyn voters to think again in last-minute plea
    Tunisia fears its Arab Spring could be reversed as the new regime becomes as intolerant of dissent as its predecessor

    The Arab Spring reversed

    Tunisian protesters fear that a new law will whitewash corrupt businessmen and officials, but they are finding that the new regime is becoming as intolerant of dissent as its predecessor
    King Arthur: Legendary figure was real and lived most of his life in Strathclyde, academic claims

    Academic claims King Arthur was real - and reveals where he lived

    Dr Andrew Breeze says the legendary figure did exist – but was a general, not a king
    Who is Oliver Bonas and how has he captured middle-class hearts?

    Who is Oliver Bonas?

    It's the first high-street store to pay its staff the living wage, and it saw out the recession in style
    Earth has 'lost more than half its trees' since humans first started cutting them down

    Axe-wielding Man fells half the world’s trees – leaving us just 422 each

    However, the number of trees may be eight times higher than previously thought
    60 years of Scalextric: Model cars are now stuffed with as much tech as real ones

    60 years of Scalextric

    Model cars are now stuffed with as much tech as real ones