Hun Sen says cars with unauthorised police and military number plates could become property of the government.
RCAF plates on vehicles parked outside Phnom Penh's Sorya Shopping centre on Sunday.
PRIME Minister Hun Sen warned last week against the use of police and military licence plates by civilians and low-ranking officers, saying the government would seize vehicles bearing unauthorised plates as part of a crackdown set to go into effect this month.
"Officials who put RCAF and police plates on their personal cars have to take them off immediately," he said during the inauguration of a granary at the Sihanoukville Autonomous Port.
"Otherwise, the vehicles will become the property of the state."
National Police Chief Neth Savoeun wrote a letter to officers in February instructing them to begin enforcing in May a law already on the books that outlaws the unauthorised use of police and military registration plates.
Article 91 of the Land Traffic Law, which went into effect in March 2007, gave the drivers of private vehicles bearing police and military plates one year to switch to private plates, meaning drivers who continue to drive with unauthorised plates have been flouting the law since March 2008. Under the law, violators face two to five years in prison and a fine of between 4 million riels and 10 million riels (US$970-$2,424). The law does not stipulate that violators can lose ownership of their vehicles.
Phnom Penh Traffic Police Chief Tin Prasoeur said he viewed Hun Sen's remarks as a "notice that we have to start implementing" the law.
"We immediately started implementing it after the prime minister's speech," he said, although he said this "implementation" involved only the recording of registration plate numbers that appeared to be in violation of the law.
"We just take the plate numbers down. We do not fine them," he said.
[right now] we just take the plate numbers down. we do not fine them.
El Narin, deputy traffic police chief, said he believed Hun Sen's remarks would prompt violators to make the switch to private plates.
He said officers were in the process of trying to educate violators about the law and that they would begin assuming possession of their cars "later on".
Hun Sen said the drivers of cars bearing police and military plates are more prone to drive recklessly, a point echoed by opposition Sam Rainsy Party parliamentarian Son Chhay, who said such drivers "do not respect traffic lights".
"Officials have to respect the law, but in Cambodia it is very hard to have officials respect the law," Son Chhay said.
He added that he believed the ministries of defence and interior had done little to curtail the use of unauthorised plates.
Touch Chankosal, a secretary of state at the Ministry of Public Works and Transport, also called on the ministries of defence and interior, which issue the plates, to focus on the problem.