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Government to re-examine traffic law

Lieutenant General Kirt Chantharith addresses the media on Friday during a press conference on the new traffic laws.
Lieutenant General Kirt Chantharith addresses the media on Friday during a press conference on the new traffic laws. Heng Chivoan

Government to re-examine traffic law

Following a troubled rollout of the January 1 Traffic Law, the government announced yesterday in a press conference that an inter-ministerial team has been established to determine what amendments will be made in reaction to widespread criticism from the public and civil society.

Addressing the media yesterday, the director of the Ministry of Interior’s land traffic department, Hem Yan, said that Interior Minister Sar Kheng, who chairs the National Road Safety Committee, would convene a meeting between the ministries of Interior, Justice, Industry, Economy and Transportation on January 12.

“On Tuesday, the team will meet and discuss to find the way out in time, since it is an urgent task,” Yan said, without specifying which articles may be amended beyond those pertaining to drivers’ licences.

Since the law took effect, several modifications were made by Prime Minister Hun Sen in response to public outcry, such as waiving driver’s licence exam requirements for motorbikes of less than 125cc.

Ostensibly responding to observations that the law was insufficiently studied and inappropriately based on laws of other countries, National Police spokesman Kirt Chantharith said the law was made “according to the actual situation of our country” with “consultations with both government institutions and civil society organisations and experts”.

However, opposition lawmaker Son Chhay yesterday challenged this narrative, pointing to regulations in the law that were ill-suited to Cambodia’s context, such as the requirement for a baby seat in cars.

“A baby seat costs maybe $200 here; how can someone purchase a baby seat when they want to bring their granddaughter to the hospital?” he said.

Chhay went on to characterise the law as a cash-grab for the government, saying that “the law has so many loopholes for corrupt officials to make money that it hurts people”.

Commenting on a recent notice, which Hun Sen posted on Facebook on Saturday, that waives the requirement for proof of the previous owner’s identity for registration of second-hand vehicles, Chhay observed this could facilitate the registration of stolen vehicles.

“I can take someone’s motorbike and register it – is that the way? It becomes anarchy.”

San Chey, the director of the Affiliated Network for Social Accountability, shared similar concerns, saying that not requiring proof of previous vehicle ownership could spur an increase in theft unless the ministries implemented specific measures to prevent that outcome.

Chey also urged the government for “more consultation [to] avoid amending [the law] several times”.

Spokespeople from several government ministries could not be reached for comment.

Additional reporting by Alessandro Marazzi Sassoon

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