Prime Minister Hun Sen yesterday threatened to fire Daun Penh District Governor Sok Penh Vuth over growing disregard for traffic laws among the public as local authorities scrambled to enforce a new crackdown on offenders.
Hun Sen urged motorists to obey traffic laws, appealing specifically to people travelling through the Independence Monument roundabout which, he noted, is “located in front of the prime minister’s house”. He said the lack of respect for traffic rules in that area was “shameful”.
Phnom Penh’s streets have long been notoriously chaotic, with police officers often appearing to turn a blind eye to rampant, blatant infractions.
“I do not blame the people, but the law enforcers. Why do they not take care of this problem?” he asked. “If this thing still happens, the Daun Penh district governor will be the first one to be dismissed,” Hun Sen added.
He said for now, motorists who committed traffic offences such as driving the wrong way down one-way streets, would have their vehicles confiscated for three days. “The second time, it is going to be three months, and for the third time, [we will] seize the motorbike or send someone to jail,” he said.
“I plead again and again, but you do not listen, and [say] ‘It is only one time, and there is nobody there’, but I am. I took pictures from the top of my house . . . Once I came out to pray to the moon, and I took pictures,” he said.
Hun Sen said he had to lecture his own family on improper driving. “Last night, I advised them all, including the nanny. If they are the children of the prime minister and they do not respect the law, who is going to respect [it] then?” he asked.
Daun Penh Governor Penh Vuth initially agreed to speak to a reporter yesterday but, when asked about Hun Sen’s comments, claimed to be too busy.
Hun Sen’s speech came in the midst of a crackdown on traffic violations that began at the New Year.
The Daun Penh district police yesterday reported stopping and confiscating 209 motorbikes, 11 cars, 13 tuk-tuks and a mobile café on January 1 and 2.
Officials at the Daun Penh traffic police station declined to give figures for vehicles seized yesterday because the chief was not present. However, there were well over 100 motorbikes in the parking lot, along with about a dozen tuk-tuks and six cars.
Motorist Chhorn Samneang was travelling the wrong direction on a one-way street when he was stopped earlier this week. His motorbike was confiscated and he was told to sign a contract pledging not to break the law again. He said he will be able to retrieve his motorbike today.
“To get the motorbike back I need a copy of my identity card and the vehicle registration card,” he said, adding that he was not asked to pay a fine.
Ear Chariya, founder of the Road Safety Institute, said that impounding vehicles might make drivers think twice about breaking laws, but he believed disregard for traffic laws is too entrenched to be rooted out by short-term crackdowns.
“Too many people now break the law,” Chariya said, adding “there is not enough space for all the [impounded] vehicles if they are going to implement it seriously”.
Chariya also said it was common for the government to implement new regulations at the beginning of the year, before tapering off later on.
San Chey, executive director of the Affiliated Network for Social Accountability-Cambodia, said traffic disobedience “happens almost everywhere in Phnom Penh”, adding that the law should not just be enforced near Hun Sen’s home.
“Intervention should be applied . . . [in] all places without exception,” he said.