The second day of debate on a traffic bill that would create tougher rules for drivers on Cambodia’s roads detoured into the political realm yesterday, when an opposition lawmaker appealed for the release of several female land activists on grounds that they were unfairly charged under the Kingdom’s existing traffic legislation.
Cambodia National Rescue Party parliamentarian Ly Sreyvina used her time on the floor yesterday to urge National Assembly President Heng Samrin, the Phnom Penh Municipality and the Phnom Penh Municipal Court to intervene in the case, which saw seven evictees from the Boeung Kak lake community imprisoned for a year last month, after they blocked a road during a protest over flooding at their homes.
The women had used a wooden bed to block part of Monivong Boulevard outside City Hall. They were arrested and charged under Article 78 of the current traffic law, receiving the maximum penalty of one year in prison. Four others, including another woman from Boeung Kak, were tried and imprisoned one day later.
Sreyvina didn’t get far with her argument, however, as Samrin stepped in to cut her off.
“Madam, you talk too long off of the topic,” Samrin said. “This is the court’s task.”
After the debate, Sreyvina explained to reporters why she made the seemingly unrelated statement.
“I requested it because I think that even new law or old law, the sentence over their acts was not reasonable since they did not go against the law. They did not intend to block the road,” she said. “They just put their beds [there] as there was flooding in their areas.
“City Hall has accused them of causing a traffic jam. In my view, the number of people who cause traffic jams is overwhelming. If we arrested them all and put them in jail, I think there would no space to keep them.”
The third and fourth chapters of the 12-chapter traffic law were passed by 101 lawmakers yesterday. Debate was to continue today on the law, which, if passed in its entirety, will make passengers on motorbikes wear helmets, among other rules designed to improve road safety.