PHNOM Penh traffic police are proving less than zealous in their enforcement of
a much-maligned regulation requiring motorcycle passengers to sit
Police officers spoken to by the Post said they were
enforcing the first part of the new regulation, limiting the number of people on
a motorcycle to two, but were less keen on the sidesaddle part of
"I'll wait and see the other policemen do it first," said one
policemen, a copy of the regulation in his hand.
"If I'm the only one who
stops people to make them sit sidesaddle, they'll laugh at me."
policemen said most of his colleagues took the view they would not insist on the
side saddle rule unless they got a "strict order from the top".
policemen said they were enforcing the limit of two people per motorcycle,
doling out regular 1000 riel fines to offenders.
Some said they were
randomly stopping and fining about 10 motorcycle drivers in each three-hour
shift. There was no shortage of motorcycles carrying more than two people, and
those stopped often complained strongly.
The Phnom Penh Municipality
directive, which took effect on Jan 1, is designed to improve traffic safety and
reduce robberies and grenade throwing.
City officials have said that by
making passengers sit side-saddle, and reducing their balance, they are less
able to fire guns or throw grenades. Also, motorcycle drivers would be less
likely to drive quickly and dangerously if they knew their passengers could fall
Critics of the new rules continue to abound, though for many
"Cambodian women will traditionally ride side-saddle
without the law," said one Khmer man, "[but] it's not scientifically right to
have men sitting side-saddle on a motorcycle."
He believed it would be a
better idea to enforce a female-only side-saddle rule against foreign women who,
by sitting astride motorcycle, set a bad example.
He said the regulation
limiting the number of people on a motorcycle was wise for safety reasons but
many could not afford to comply with it.
Poor families often had only one
motorcycle or none at all, and "it's not appropriate for laws to go faster than
the social conditions".
Meanwhile, a Khmer newspaper photographer was
arrested and detained after trying to stop a police attempt to stop a motorcycle
carrying three people-by sticking a baton in its wheel spokes.
photographer was released half an hour later after the intervention of the
police chief, the Interior Ministry and human rights groups.