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Logo of Phnom Penh Post newspaper Phnom Penh Post - License to kill: trafficking in the transport ministry

License to kill: trafficking in the transport ministry

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Jimmy Brown

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],"

he said.

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

driver.

"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.

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