Minister of Interior Sar Sokha has announced that he will dismiss any official who causes a traffic accidents and attempts to evade taking responsibility. He also stressed that from the onset of 2024, there will be no more “education” for drivers that violate traffic laws, but fines.

Sokha made the stern warning while addressing a December 25 ceremony in Sihanoukville, held to commemorate the victims of traffic accidents.

“To those who commit a hit-and-run accident, I declare from here on that if you are a police officer or other official under the jurisdiction of the ministry and you don’t turn yourself in to confess, your position will not be retained. As law enforcement, we must behave like role models for the public to follow. If you are not respected and not a role model, I don’t see why such officials should remain with the ministry,” he said. 

Sokha said he would not ban the consumption of alcohol, but vehicle operators must behave responsibly. He raised the example of some countries, where consuming alcohol during working hours could be punished with jail time or dismissal.

“We are not at that stage yet. But I remind all members of the law enforcement community to bear it in mind,” he warned.

He added that the ministry has been enforcing “education measures” for years when it came to traffic offences. These measures would come to an end by the end of the year, with strict legal action to be carried out from next year.

“From the beginning of 2024, we will introduce strict measures and implement fines. How much longer should we apply ‘education’?” he asked rhetorically. 

“You all know that those who drive motorbikes without a helmet are breaking the law, but you do not always take action. Traffic accidents are a disaster for the nation, for the victims, and for their families,” he said.

Kim Pagna, country director of the Asia Injury Prevention (AIP) Foundation, welcomed Sokha’s stance of dismissing irresponsible officials who were involved in traffic accidents.

“The firing of such officials should be enforced because such acts reflect their failure to live up to their roles as ‘servants of the people’. It needs to be done on a case by case basis. Sometimes when a driver flees the scene of an accident it is because of a fear of mob violence. It also depends on whether the perpetrator turns himself in to confess or not,” he said.

He added that strict measures must be taken against those who cause accidents and refuse to admit their responsibility, as this will deter such action, and promote respect for the law and the lives of other people.

According to Sokha, the Kingdom records an average of 10 traffic accidents a day, with four deaths and 12 injuries. He said 79 per cent of the fatalities occured among motorcyclists, noting that 74 per cent of them failed to wear helmets.

Separately, Phnom Penh governor Khuong Sreng issued a December 25 instruction to the capital traffic police. He ordered that they only stop vehicles while in uniform and may not do so in civilian clothes, in order to avoid public outcry and confusion.