Motorists complain that traffic cops are simply being given a licence to extort as the number of finable offences increases
Photo by: TRACEY SHELTON
Traffic on Phnom Penh's Norodom Boulevard on Sunday. Traffic police will soon begin fining those without helmets.
POLICE will begin enforcing Cambodia's helmet law, which was included in a raft of traffic regulations passed in late 2006 as the government grappled with increasing chaos on the Kingdom's roads, Phnom Penh's top traffic cop said.
Since March, police have collected some US$5,000 in fines from motorists driving without rearview mirrors - the first regulation to be enforced under the new rules, said Municipal Traffic Police Chief Tin Prasoeur.
Motorcycle riders without a helmet will also be subject to the same 4,000 riel ($1) fine as those without mirrors, he said, adding that the law will be enforced in early 2009.
"We want all people to respect the law so that they can avoid traffic accidents," Tin Prasoeur said Sunday.
"Municipal authorities will run an education campaign before implementing the new fines. Radio and TV spots will be aired soon," he added.
On average, more than four people die each day on Cambodia's roads, according to figures from the NGO Handicap International Belgium.
But the new laws have only been haphazardly enforced, and motorists complain that they are just another chance for police to extort money from them, saying that the amount they are fined for minor offences is often more than the legal limit.
"The traffic police stopped me [and] demanded that I pay 6,000 riels," said university student Leang Chanla, who was fined for not having mirrors.
WE HAVE SUSPENDED MANY OF THEM FROM WORK FOR TAKING EXTRA MONEY.
"Their acts are not those of a law-enforcement officer, but of extorters."
Tin Prasoeur admitted that among the 500 traffic police in Phnom Penh there are some who fine people too much.
"We have suspended many of them from work for taking extra money from people," he said.
Traffic officers often say they take extra money to supplement their meagre incomes.