A high proportion of accidents are caused by people who have little knowledge of road rules.
The amount of money needed to bribe officials to pass a road rules test and get a
driving license is four times what it was a little over a year ago, but the "quality"
of the driving exam remains the same.
Apparently, the increase is the cost of the onward march of progress and privatization.
But it was not what was predicted by Leng Thun Yuthea, director general of transport
at the Ministry of Public Works and Transport (MPWT), in May last year when the building
at the Department of Land Transport was renovated and fitted out with new computers,
software and air conditioning. He said the new technology would reduce the opportunity
for paying off officials for a license.
But when the renovated building began to be used in August 2005, the cost of apparently
necessary bribes increased from $20 to $80 for passing the computer and driving tests
on road rules. And that's for an ordinary car; a truck license costs more.
People the Post spoke to said if you pay a bribe you can get your license even if
you can't drive; but if you don't cough up the cash, regardless of your driving skill
you won't get a license even if you sit the exam "ten thousand times."
Fears have been expressed that corrupt driving tests are contributing to the ever-worsening
state of Cambodia's traffic, with many accidents caused by people who have little
knowledge of road rules.
"Traffic accidents in Cambodia today are the second major issue after HIV/AIDS,"
said Sem Panhavuth, road traffic accident and victim information system (RTAVIS)
manager for Handicap International Belgium. "Each month, thousands of people
have accidents and a lot of them are seriously injured and die."
Panhavuth said about 90 percent of traffic accidents are caused by people driving
too fast, or driving while drunk or not giving way according to road rules. All these
causes could be attributed to poor education in traffic law.
An August survey by RTAVIS showed that a provisional number of 1,356 casualties were
reported that month by participating hospitals, health centers, private clinics and
traffic police departments in the 24 reporting provinces. Of those casualties, 232
people were severely injured and 78 died.
Panhavuth said the Ministry of Public Works and Transport should be more strict on
driving schools and eliminate corruption, otherwise people with licenses could be
as incompetent as people without them.
Srey Sirey Vadh, deputy director of the Land Transport Department of the Ministry
of Public Works and Transport, said a local private company, Kamtranship Co Ltd,
had taken on the job of organizing the computer system and the site for the driving
test, but the exam itself and the issuing of licenses were still under the management
of the Land Transport Department of the MPWT.
Sirey Vadh said he could not comment about corruption in the driving exam because
it was outside his jurisdiction.
"I do not dare to know more deeply [about corruption in the driving test],"
But he said that next month the ministry would be handing over the conducting of
exams and issuing of licenses to Phnom Penh Municipality.
On October 11 the Post learned that a person who wants to pass the driving test and
get a driving license just has to go to the General Department of Land Transport
on Russian Boulevard about two kilometers past the Royal Phnom Penh University on
the way to the Phnom Penh International Airport. Ask anyone inside and you'll find
out how to pass the driving test and get a driving license.
The Post asked a motodop taxi driver parked inside the department about the driving
test and was referred by him to another man who identified himself as a dealer who
for many years had been acting for anyone who wanted to pass the driving test and
get a driving license.
The dealer said for $150 he will arrange passing the exam and getting a driver's
license for a person who doesn't know how to drive a car or truck. If a person does
know how to drive he'll arrange it for a mere $110.
He said his fees are less than those of the 20 other dealers waiting for customers
at the department.
"For the person who does not know how to drive, I just teach him or her how
to drive for ten hours and then that person can drive and pass the test," the
dealer said. "But other dealers take $130 to $140 with no teaching how to drive
and no guarantee to pass the test and get a driving license."
He said that although he takes $150 from his unskilled clients, he gets only $5 of
that, because he has to pay $35 to the private company that organizes the driving
site, and the rest he has to give to the official in charge of issuing driving licenses
at the General Department of Transport.
"If a person does not pay for the test, they will not pass the test even they
do it ten thousands of times, and even they know how to drive and know the road rules,"
the dealer said
One person the Post spoke to who was going to do the exam on October 12, said on
condition of anonymity that he had paid $80 to pass both the computer and driving
tests through his driving teacher at the 23 Tola Driving School.
Another candidate for the October 12 exam, Keo Vibol, 24, said he had paid $90 because
he drives a crane.
Vibol said so far he had spent $140, including paying $50 for driving lessons at
Mittapheap Driving School. He said after he gets his license, he will go back to
Kampot to pursue a career as a crane driver.
Son Sothy, 25, from Kampong Cham, said on October 12 that he too hoped to be a crane
"Today at 9:00 am I will do a test [of multiple choice questions] on the computer
and I will be allowed to do a crane driving test after I pass the computer test.
But I do not know for sure whether I will pass because I haven't paid for the exam."
Sothy said he knew how to drive a crane because he had studied for a month at the
Mittapheap Driving School and had been using a kor yun (mechanical plow) in Kampong
Cham since he was 14 or 15.