Around 30 percent of motor vehicles on Phnom Penh's streets lack registration documents
or are illegally-licensed, according to the head of the Ministry of Transport's registration
office, Ung Chun Hua.
A flourishing trade in illegal car documents is conducted beside the road in front
of the former Ministry of Communications' office on Street 51.
Shady dealers offer counterfeit number plates, known as "flying horse"
plates, for cars and motorbikes and sell fake driving licenses.
According to Hua, the dealers have copied the ministry's seals and signatures but
he says it is impossible to stop them because they carry guns and it is not his responsibility
to deal with the problem.
The main problems facing Hua are vehicle smuggling and plain defiance of traffic
regulations amid slack law enforcement. Many drivers, it seems, steer clear of officialdom.
Less than a dozen cars show up each day at the Ministry of Transport for registration.
Hua fears the unregulated trade in used vehicles only makes it easier for thieves
to pass on stolen cars and motorcycles.
In the future the ministry plans to clamp down on the street trade and wants all
vehicle traders to arrange registration for their customers.
Another target is unroadworthy vehicles. The ministry currently requires all passenger
vehicles to undergo inspections every six months and goods trucks once a year. Up
to 60 vehicles turn up each day for inspection.
The ministry is now awaiting approval for it's own plan for a special squad to roam
the city seeking out unroadworthy trucks, cars, buses and motorcycles.
The team would comprise four members from the Transport Ministry, three policemen,
and four from the Ministry of Public Works.
The ministry would also like to see more people applying to take the official driving
A handful of private driving schools have opened in the capital in recent months
but, according to many pupils, the quality of training does not compare to that given
at the one state-run school.
Private courses usually last from two to three weeks and concentrate on "how
to steer and put the brakes on."
The state school is said to provide proper training with theory and practice spanning
Plans are in the pipeline by the ministry to control private driving schools and
to end the practice of paying for driving licenses without taking tests.
The problems of increasing road accidents and traffic jams can best be tackled, says
Phnom Penh's chief of traffic police Col. El Samneang, by filling in the holes in
"You have to look at the roads first before talking about traffic," he
told the Post.
To deal with the increasing problems, police are stationed at every major road junction
to direct traffic. Shifts begin at 6am and continue until 10pm.
Col. Samneang believes only 40 percent of drivers, at best, respect traffic laws
and he cites the disregard for red lights and a general indifference to traffic police
as his main problems.
Public safety campaigns in the press and on TV and radio are said to be contributing
to a general improvement in driving standards despite little evidence on the roads.
Even so, few drivers appear to understand basic traffic regulations with the increasing
result that cars are illegally parked and frequently cause obstructions.
Col. Samneang says the owners of many of the capital's hotels, restaurants and shops
could ease the situation by providing parking spaces for their customers.
But this is not something the police are empowered to tackle, admits the colonel.
"This, in fact, rests with the institution that authorizes construction,"
said the colonel.