Amid accusations earlier this month from Sam Rainsy Party lawmakers that illegal use of official licence plates was rampant, the Ministry of Defence on Wednesday said that only 400 authentic Royal Cambodian Armed Forces plates had been approved since a 2007 law limited their use only to military personnel.
Ministry spokesman Chhum Socheat said all 400 applications were legal and that owners have paid all requisite fees on state-owned vehicles.
“Our policy for RCAF number plates is that all vehicle owners have paid vehicle taxes and have signed contracts to declare their vehicles state-owned,”he said. “This means the government may seize their cars in cases of illegal activity.”
Chhum Socheat said the ministry has stopped issuing the plates but that unregistered plates were still a problem.
“I believe there are more than 400 cars bearing RCAF plates, but military police have increased their enforcement to catch those cars bearing unpermitted plates,” he said, adding that any RCAF-registered cars involved in criminal activity could be confiscated and that the driver would face punishment from authorities.
In a letter dated February 5 that was addressed to Prime Minister Hun Sen and ratified by National Assembly President Heng Samrin, four SRP lawmakers urged the government to ramp up efforts to enforce traffic laws that ban civilian cars from using military plates.
The letter stated that under the 2007 law, anyone using unlawful plates had one year from the passage of the law to apply for civilian ones, and that while progress had been made, many drivers still used illegally obtained plates.
“Relevant ministries have taken measurements effectively so far,” the letter stated. “But recently, we have seen private vehicles bearing those military number plates that have violated the law.”
Men Sothavrin, an SRP lawmaker and signatory to the letter, said he has noticed that some vehicles bearing RCAF number plates were owned or driven by civilians, and some even by foreigners.
“Some people aren’t military officials, but use RCAF plates to do illegal logging,” he said. “It negatively affects RCAF’s reputation.”
He added that opposition lawmakers were not objecting to the use of military or police number plates by those entitled to apply for them and suggested that legitimate plate holders should paint their vehicles in military colours to help people determine which licences were legal and which ones were not.
Chhum Socheat said that the 2007 law does include such a provision but that it was rarely implemented or enforced.
“It is not a problem if legitimate plate owners do not spray [their vehicles] with military colours,” he said.