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Logo of Phnom Penh Post newspaper Phnom Penh Post - Cops turn a blind eye to side-saddlers

Cops turn a blind eye to side-saddlers

PHNOM Penh traffic police are proving less than zealous in their enforcement of

a much-maligned regulation requiring motorcycle passengers to sit

side-saddle.

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

it.

"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."

Another

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".

But the

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

off.

Critics of the new rules continue to abound, though for many

different reasons.

"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.

The

photographer was released half an hour later after the intervention of the

police chief, the Interior Ministry and human rights groups.

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