Minister of Interior Sar Sokha described drunk driving as “insulting life”, warning that drunk drivers can become killers and no one is exempt to the Kingdom’s traffic laws.

In a January 23 social media post, Sokha noted that over the course of 2023, over 1,500 people were killed in traffic accidents. Driving under the influence of alcohol was a contributor to the deaths.

“You could become a killer if you drive while under the influence of alcohol. Under Article 85 of the Road Traffic Law, if a driver registers a blood alcohol level of 0.40 mg/l or higher and causes a death, they will be sentenced from two to five years in prison, plus fines and civil compensation,” he added.

Sokha explained that Prime Minister Hun Manet has ordered that anyone who causes an accident while driving under the influence is to be handcuffed and detained. The interior ministry is currently examining the possibility of creating a database or “blacklist” to record the names of drivers who cause injuries or deaths while driving under the influence.

He warned that some drivers deliberately flaunt the law, causing tragedies on the road every day. This was made clear in a recent incident where a drunk driver hit a number of stationary motorcycles and cars, killing four motorcyclists and injuring several other people. The major crash has sparked widespread discussions about the dangers of driving while under the influence of alcohol.

“Everyone, especially those who regularly consume alcohol, must come to their senses and respect the law. We have to break the habit of driving under the influence, under the slogan ‘Don’t drive while under the influence of alcohol’ and follow the recommendation of former Prime Minister Hun Sen, who said ‘Today, tomorrow we will see no more traffic accidents’,” he said.

“Please don’t allow yourself to do something that may lead to your downfall. Do not let alcohol turn you into a killer,” he added.

Kim Pagna, country director of the Asia Injury Prevention Foundation (AIP), supported Sokha’s remarks.

“I encourage stricter law enforcement. I ask that the law is widely enforced, day and night. This should not be focused only on advertising and education, but on enforcement. Previously, it appeared that drunk driving had reduced, but it seems to be on the rise,” he said.

He added that as long as traffic accidents continue to happen every day, the police must not stop enforcing the law. 

“It is not enough that they act swiftly when accidents occur; they must also do more to prevent them. This includes setting up checkpoints on a regular basis,” he said.

He suggested that the government expedite the enactment of an alcohol advertising law, noting that this is as necessary as strengthening the implementation of road traffic laws. They should also encourage alcohol companies to join them in traffic accident reduction campaigns.

Chey Tech, an independent socio-economic analyst, believed that the Kingdom’s road toll represents a dire situation, noting that despite instructions from the leadership to enforce traffic regulations, the beginning of 2024 had seen several horrific accidents.

“In my opinion, to reduce traffic accidents, the government must strengthen several points, including the quality of driver training and the issuance of driver’s licences. Increasing awareness of the road rules via billboards, media outlets, schools and community centres would assist with this,” he said.

“The government should also tighten regulations on any alcohol advertising that may motivate people to consume more alcohol, such as prizes and competitions. They ought to restrict the use of celebrities or influential people to advertise drinks. In addition, a law should be passed which establishes a minimum age for consuming or buying alcohol,” he added.

He also proposed restrictions on the times when alcohol could be purchased, as well as increased taxes.