Eight killed, 21 injured in Phnom Penh
TANG CHHIN SOTHY/ AFP
People crowd onto a pick-up truck as they leave Phnom Penh on April 12 to celebrate the New Year festival. Roads leading out of the capital were clogged with traffic as tens of thousands left the city to celebrate the New Year’s holiday in their home provinces.
Substantially more people were killed on Phnom Penh roads this New Year than during the 2007 holiday break despite the efforts of road safety organizations and the Cambodian government, who campaigned hard to lower the holiday road toll.
Eight people were killed and 21 injured in the capital over the April 12-15 holiday period, said the deputy chief of Phnom Penh’s traffic police, Pen Khun, who blamed poor driving for most crashes.
Last Khmer New Year in Phnom Penh, only one person was killed and 20 injured during the five days from April 12-16, he said.
“Ninety-seven percent of all accidents are caused by human error, primarily drunk driving and speeding,” Khun said.
Meanwhile, the Department of Road Transportation said the number of accidents nationwide from January to March 2008 had more than doubled from the same period last year.
In Siem Reap province this New Year, there were nine traffic accidents that injured 16 people, although no fatalities were reported, Siem Reap police chief Sot Nady told the Post on April 16.
“We had eight fewer accidents this year than in 2007 because many people didn’t drive their cars during the festivities as we had bad storms at the time,” he said.
Keo Savin, director of the Department of Road Transportation, said roads were becoming more crowded and this was contributing to a higher rate of crashes in general.
From January until the end of March, 421 people were killed on Cambodian roads and a further 3,003 injured, compared with 206 fatalities and 2,122 injured in the first three months of 2007, according to the department’s figures.
“The sheer volume of vehicles causes accidents now,” Savin said.
From January 1 to March 31, “in the whole of Cambodia, 11,414 people received driving licenses but the number of registered vehicles went up even faster – 34,810 vehicles were registered, of which 29,049 were motorbikes,” he said.
Several NGOs and government departments issued warnings and held high-profile public ceremonies in the build-up to the Khmer New Year break in the hope of saving lives on the Kingdom’s notoriously chaotic roads.
The National Road Safety Committee on April 7 warned people to drive carefully as there is often a spike in the number of traffic accident during national festivals, particularly during Khmer New Year when thousands of families flood out of the cities in overloaded vehicles to celebrate the holiday in their home provinces.
Still, festivities got off to a bad start in Phnom Penh with five people killed in three crashes on April 13.
Pop star Sok Pisey was injured on April 14 when the car she was driving blew a tire and ran off a road in Koh Kong province, killing four passengers, including her 10-year-old sister, and injuring five others.
The 19-year-old, who had been traveling from Phnom Penh to Sihanoukville for a concert, was taken to Calmette hospital and is expected to make a full recovery.
According to the Road Traffic Accident Victim Information System (RTRAVIS), from April 12-18 last year there were 1,340 minor casualties, 74 fatalities, and 341 severe injuries nationwide.
While an accurate national tally of crashes is yet to be compiled for the holiday this year, the deputy head of the department of judicial police, Him Yan, said on 16 April he was optimistic that “traffic accidents during the Khmer New Year period for this year will be fewer than last year.”