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Traffic law still in first gear

Minister of Public Works and Transport Tram Iv Tek said yesterday that a planned move to give Interior Minister Sar Kheng his job as chairman of the National Road Safety Committee will improve enforcement on Cambodia’s roads.

Speaking to reporters at the National Assembly amid the first debate on a revamped traffic law that promises more stringent road rules, Iv Tek said his ministry was relatively powerless to police the streets.

The National Road Safety Committee, set up about 10 years ago, is technically responsible for enforcement activities, awareness and education, among other things. But the Ministry of Interior oversees traffic police on the ground, creating an awkward situation.

“I can tell you that before, I hesitated on giving orders to traffic police”, he said. “Our ministry can only advertise and educate people.”

The change is one of several floated in the new law. Yesterday, however, parliamentarians only approved two chapters – out of 12 – dealing with traffic signs and the definitions of terms in the bill.

The most dramatic proposals in the draft law will limit passengers on a motorbike to two, including one child, and expand current helmet requirements to riders. Now, only the driver need wear one.

Another key aspect is the upping of fines and punishments for drunken driving.

In the debate yesterday, opposition leader Sam Rainsy said police salaries should also go up as part of the law.

“If they did not fine drivers, they would have no money to spend,” he said.

Ear Chariya, an independent road safety consultant who has also advised the government, said that enforcement “has not been taken very seriously in the past,” but that if Kheng takes the helm with the passage of the new traffic law, “we hope that the enforcement will be improved.”

“He’s the deputy prime minister, he has more powers, more influence in the police, and he is also able to attract funding for the road safety and the National Road Safety Committee.”

ADDITIONAL REPORTING BY JOE FREEMAN

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