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Logo of Phnom Penh Post newspaper Phnom Penh Post - Teenage moto-madness 'unstoppable'

Teenage moto-madness 'unstoppable'

Teenage moto-madness 'unstoppable'

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teen.jpg

Cambodian teenagers with time and a moto on their hands are candidates for the potentially fatal "moto-flyer" craze.

'Flying', the police explain, is essentially riding at high speed and pulling stunts

such as 'wheelies'.

Keo Pisa is one young 'flyer'. In a street near Hun Sen Park, Pisa struts like a

film hero. With no protective outfit and helmet, he guns the bike's engine, then

flies the front wheel higher. Fifty meters down the road he drops back on to both

wheels.

"I feel so proud when I fly my motorbike, because most people do not think I

could do an unusual stunt like this. It is great fun," he said.

His friends may enjoy it, but the police are less impressed. Flying your motorbike

in traffic is illegal, they say, and those who are caught will be punished. However,

catching them is difficult: most of the bikers simply drive too fast.

Sometimes, though, the police are quicker: three months ago, officers under Khan

Prampi Makara police commissioner Yim Simony caught a group of 10 motorbike flyers

near the Olympic stadium. He recorded their plate numbers and warned them against

doing so again.

"Those teenagers are playing with death," he says. "They cause fatal

accidents to innocent people when they fly their motorbikes, sometimes at speeds

of between 60 and 70 kilometers an hour."

He said that in most accidents it was innocent people who were killed - the riders

generally came off unscathed.

Simony's words are echoed by Dei Mao, a Phnom Penh municipal traffic policeman. He

told the Post that in May this year a 20-year-old flyer, Rattana, caused a fatal

accident along Sothearos Boulevard south of the National Assembly.

Mao says that Rattana lost control when flying the front wheel of his motorbike.

It landed on the head of a passing motorist and killed him instantly. Rattana was

arrested.

Official fines for exceeding the speed limit are hardly a deterrent. Going faster

than the official 40 kilometers an hour limit in Phnom Penh will earn the offender

a fine of only 1,500 riel. Some flyers, however, say they have been fined as much

as $50.

Pisa, a 20-year-old high school dropout, said it took him only three months to attain

the skills that would land less talented riders in hospital. He says he has no fear.

Pisa's friends taught him how to fly. Since he started three months ago, Pisa has

had five accidents, but says that his injuries will not discourage him from carrying

on.

The other side to flying - other than looking good in front of your friends - is

the gambling that sometimes goes with it. Pisa said some of his friends bet from

$10 to $30 on a flying race. The winner is the one who gets his bike furthest down

the road without falling off. Victory and cash are the rewards, he says, as well

as gaining the admiration of others.

One novice flyer, 19-year-old Pan Sopheak, gained some scars for his troubles when

he came off his bike in a flying race.

"I can handle it. In spite of the possibility of more accidents, I will still

do it," he says.

Concerned at the rising number of teenage flyers, the city's traffic police in collaboration

with NGOs produced a documentary of short stories about traffic rules earlier this

year. The stories were broadcast on Cambodian TV in a bid to educate Cambodia's young

flyers.

Mr El Samneang, chief of Phnom Penh Municipal traffic police and who is in charge

of the traffic education program, says he produced the stories for residents, and

in particular the city's youth, to teach them to respect traffic law and avoid possible

accidents.

Samneang says :"If you gamble on a video game motorbike race, you will lose

only your money, but if you gamble on your motorbike flying in the street, you may

lose your life."

Some young flyers say that the program made them stop, but it seems there are plenty

more who will take their place.

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