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Putting the brakes on tests

People fill out paperwork at a transport office in Phnom Penh at the end of last month ahead of the implementation of the new traffic laws on January 1. Photo supplied
People fill out paperwork at a transport office in Phnom Penh at the end of last month ahead of the implementation of the new traffic laws on January 1. Photo supplied

Putting the brakes on tests

Cambodian motorbike drivers will no longer need to pass an exam to obtain a licence if the prime minister has anything to say about it.

Hun Sen yesterday called for the elimination of exams as he announced a decision to more than halve the cost of obtaining a licence in his latest move to curry favour with road users.

Licence fees will be cut from 60,000 riel (about $15) to 25,000 riel, he said, adding that he believed passing a driving test was an unnecessary step on the path to obtaining a motorbike licence.

Hun Sen cited the ease of motorbike usage in explaining his call to eliminate the exams yesterday.

“People do not have to learn how to drive a motorbike … this is not very complicated,” he said.

Similar plans are also in the works to cut fees for other classes of licence, and driving tests would now be free of charge, he added.

The reduction in charges comes amid the concessions for two companies to operate toll roads being cancelled or altered by the premier in the wake of complaints from drivers.

It also comes just days after the new traffic law came into force on January 1.

San Chey, director of the Affiliated Network for Social Accountability (ANSA), yesterday said he thought the licence fee cuts did not go deep enough.

“I still think the prices are expensive. If a family only has two members, it’s not a problem, but if they have more than five people, it becomes expensive,” he said.

He added that while some instruction on traffic rules should be given prior to a licence being issued, he also welcomed the end to formal driving tests.

But while independent road safety analyst Ear Chariya agreed the move to slash fees was an encouraging sign, he cautioned against the plan to do away with tests.

“Where there are exemptions from taking exams, it causes problems in the future. You might have a licence but not have enough knowledge to drive. You might not know the traffic rules,” he said.

Hun Sen also publicly took issue with his sister, Hun Sinath, yesterday after she publicly criticised the enforcement of the new traffic law.

“My sister should not criticise like this … The traffic law is intended to protect people’s lives. That’s why we made it.”

Sinath, for her part, backed down from the confrontation yesterday, saying what she had written was a reflection of public opinion and she had only meant the comments to be of help to Hun Sen in making decisions.

Hun Sen also announced that from January 7, families living by National Road 4 – a toll road controlled by a private company since 2002 – will be able to use the highway without charge.

“It was a suggestion from the residents who live along National Road 4. The government’s response is that family cars … will not have to pay money for the toll from January 7,” he said.

The premier also brought another private toll road, Veng Sreng Boulevard, back under government control on December 29, scrapping toll fees in the process.

Phnom Penh City Hall is now on the hook to pay the company carrying out renovation work on Veng Sreng, Phnom Penh Tollway, about $10.5 million for its efforts, money originally slated to be made back by the company through toll fee collections.

The company with the toll concession on National Road 4, AZ Investment, has also agreed to stop taking money from trucks transporting commuting garment workers to factories.

Normal fees will apply if travelling to Sihanoukville, Hun Sen added.

Eang Bun Hoaw, director of AZ Investment, could not be reached yesterday.

Chey of ANSA said the decision to cut toll fees only for locals may be political. “I think the prime minister seems to be promoting popularity for his son [Hun Many], who is a lawmaker in Kampong Speu.”

An earlier version of this story incorrectly stated that the driver's exam for Cambodian motorbike licences had been eliminated. In face, Prime Minister Hun Sen has only called for the exam's elimination. The Post regrets any confusion caused by this error.

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