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No more stealth tactics by city police

PHNOM Penh’s top cop has ordered his officers to stop hiding behind trees during crackdowns on traffic violations.

Municipal Police Chief Touch Naruth said yesterday that he had ordered traffic police to lead by example in teaching drivers respect.

“It is important that traffic police keep safety on the road. Make sure that people respect you and the law,” Touch Naruth said yesterday as he relayed a message given during his Tuesday meeting. “Don’t just stand under trees and jump out to crack down on drivers without helmets or mirrors. It’s dangerous for you and drivers on the roads.”

Touch Naruth said traffic police should man checkpoints stationed at main intersections. Instead, he said, many officers spend an inordinate amount of time behind trees hoping to spot potential violations.

But Touch Naruth also criticised motorists who try to evade traffic police by pulling abrupt U-turns and speeding off in the opposite direction – dangerous manoeuvres that he said are likely to cause accidents.

Traffic police have also been instructed not to chase drivers fleeing potential fines, since many drivers are not suspected of crimes but are merely visitors from outside the capital who do not know the laws.

“You can chase them if they are criminals. If they do not wear helmets and you cannot fine them because they escaped you, let them be. Later, they will respect the law,” he said.

However, it appears not everyone agrees with the police chief’s strategy. Him Yan, director of the public order department at the Interior Ministry, said hiding behind trees is “an unavoidable strategy”.

“This strategy is to make people cease their bad habits,” Him Yan said. He said other countries also employ such measures to enforce the law.

But Long Chy, a 34-year-old motorbike-taxi driver, said that he blamed police for causing traffic accidents when trying to surprise rule-breakers.
“Police activities are much more anarchic than regular people’s,” he said.

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