Phnom Penh’s municipal police chief says officers will target KTVs and even deploy spike strips to crackdown on drunk and dangerous drivers, though he conceded there would be “problems” getting some people to pay their fines under Cambodia’s new Traffic Law.
Bringing tougher penalties and tighter regulations, the new code, which went into effect on Friday after a year-long grace period, has been hailed by road safety groups, though questions remain about its implementation.
Detailing a plan of attack at a City Hall meeting yesterday, capital police chief Chhoun Sovan said police would space out checkpoints by 300 metres to avoid traffic jams, use spike strips to stop motorists from fleeing, and target KTVs and clubs to catch drunk drivers.
But, he acknowledged, “For this first step, if we do not implement it effectively and strictly, this strengthened Traffic Law will not be successful.”
Between Friday and Sunday officers fined or “educated” 24,000 road users across the country. Officers can no longer collect fines on the spot and must issue a ticket.
Sovan said yesterday that a lingering lack of awareness among the populace of the new regulations and the five-fold rise in penalties could spur a pattern of non-compliance, particularly in the provinces, where he feared people would simply “tear up” fines.
“Knowledge about the law, especially among rural people, is limited, and I think people will react badly when they have to pay a heavy fine, and this is a problem,” he said.
Sovan also conceded that police were unsure how to respond to certain situations, such as vehicles overloaded with workers.
Yesterday, Ear Chariya, founder of the Road Safety Institute, said he wanted to see better efforts to stop speeding and drunk driving – the main risk factors in the Kingdom’s more than 2,000 fatal crashes this year – but noted that law enforcement tools police have had in their possession for years have gone largely underutilised.
Chariya said breathalyser kits supplied to Cambodia by the World Health Organisation and funded by Bloomberg Philanthropies, as well as speed cameras donated by Handicap International, had been largely neglected since the 2013 elections.
“In terms of capacity, it’s not a big issue; the issue is the commitment from the high-ranking people,” Chariya said.
Yesterday, Ti Long, a deputy to General Run Roth Veasna, director of the ministry’s Department of Order, rejected the claim, though could not provide statistics on the amount of drivers nabbed for drunk driving or speeding.
Meanwhile, Prime Minister Hun Sen’s sister, Hun Sinath, called for the legislation to be reconsidered. In a Facebook post, Sinath urged a greater focus on education, parking offences and drunk driving rather than fines.
“Is the Traffic Law made to protect people or mistreat people?” she said.
Speaking via phone yesterday, Sinath denied that any of her family’s business interests could be adversely affected by the law.
ADDITIONAL REPORTING BY SHAUN TURTON