Prime Minister Hun Sen announced yesterday that Cambodian people could ride public buses for free to their hometowns over the Khmer New Year along five national roads instead of only two as initially announced on Sunday.
Mr Hun Sen also called on people to avoid playing unusual games that were not traditional for Khmer New Year celebrations.
Speaking yesterday at a graduation in Phnom Penh, Mr Hun Sen said he discussed expanding the free bus routes with the Phnom Penh governor.
Mr Hun Sen said the free rides would last from April 12 to 18 along National Roads 1, 3, 4, 5 and 6.
“Cambodian people can ride on the public buses free of charge on these five national roads. They can leave on April 12 and come back on April 18. So on April 18, the free public buses will not leave town anymore,” he said. “We are providing free bus rides for our people because we want to reduce the use of other transportation companies that agree every year not to increase ticket prices but still do.”
Mr Hun Sen added it was difficult to order private companies not to raise prices in a free market economy, so to solve the issue he decided to approve the use of 60 public buses to take people to the provinces over the holiday.
“If there aren’t enough, we will add more buses,” said Mr Hun Sen, adding that some people and workers would start departing for the provinces on April 12, the same day the bus service begins.
The premier said that people who have money can take another bus or car.
“I want to challenge private companies that ignore our request to not increase the price during Khmer New Year. We have to think about Pchum Ben Day, we will do the same like this,” he added.
Phnom Penh Governor Khuong Sreng said yesterday that the free buses would depart from five different places in Phnom Penh at 5am on April 12.
The National Road 1 bus will go from Phnom Penh to Kandal, Prey Veng and Svay Rieng provinces; National Road 3 from the Chom Chao roundabout to Kampot province; National Road 4 from the Chom Chao roundabout to Kampong Speu and Preah Sihanouk provinces; National Road 5 from Phnom Penh to Kampong Chhnang, Pursat, Battambang and Banteay Meanchey provinces; and National Road 6 from Phnom Penh to Kampong Thom and Siem Reap provinces.
The Garment Manufacturers Association in Cambodia and workers yesterday expressed appreciation to Mr Hun Sen for offering the free public bus service.
“This action taken by the Prime Minister will help workers save on transportation costs and avoid traffic-related accidents that always happen during extended public holidays,” it said.
Meanwhile, Mr Hun Sen also appealed to authorities and the armed forces to pay extra attention during the Khmer New Year to ensure security and people’s safety.
“For the security and safety of our people, we require all levels of the armed forces everywhere to pay attention to their safety,” he said. “We have to assure the security of our people to prevent any problems from happening during that time.”
“People’s safety during the Khmer New Year is very important. I call on authorities and armed forces at all levels nationwide to pay attention to the people over the New Year,” he added.
Mr Hun Sen also asked people to avoid playing some games which could cause accidents such as splashing water and powder on each other or on motorists.
“Throwing water and applying powder during the New Year are not traditional Khmer games,” said Mr Hun Sen.
During the five days of Khmer New Year last year, more than 50 people died and 200 were injured in 121 traffic accidents. According to an Interior Ministry report, 55 people were killed and 226 were injured, 126 of which were seriously hurt.
“Road accidents and deaths increased this year compared with the same period in 2016, when there were 113 accidents and 52 fatalities,” it said.
The majority of accidents took place in Battambang, Svay Rieng, and Kampong Thom provinces and in Phnom Penh.