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Traffic Law to Change Again

Pech Sotheary / Khmer Times Share:
A couple end up on the road after an accident in Phnom Penh. KT/Chor Sokunthea

The Permanent Committee of the National Assembly (NA) approved a number of amendments to the Traffic Law yesterday, sending them on to parliament’s 7th plenary session for final ratification on Monday.
 
NA spokesman Leng Peng Long said the committee decided on amendments to nine articles of the Traffic Law based on requests from the NA’s 9th commission and government officials.
 
The 9th commission met with government representatives last Wednesday to review potential changes to the law and discuss urgent requests for amendments.
 
The parts slated to change are article 40, about the kinds of licenses needed for certain vehicles, article 48 on the technical characteristics of vehicles, article 75 on vehicle arrests, article 77 on the use of fake documents, article 82 on unintentional murder and article 90 on criminal lawsuits.
 
Mr. Peng Long did not explain how these articles would be changing or what they will be replaced with, but last week, Prime Minister Hun Sen came under heavy fire from critics for some of the amendments that were leaked to the press.
 
They included the removal of the need for a license for motorcycles under-125cc and the scrapping of a requirement for car passengers to always wear seatbelts.
 
The government said they were responding to a public outcry over the law after nearly one year of implementation and that the new changes would be for the “promotion of quality, efficiency and transparency in the management of traffic safety,” according to Nin Saphon, a member of the 9th Commission’s Public Works, Transportation, and Telecommunication working group.
 
Via Facebook, Ms. Saphon said the “expert commission observed that the traffic law amendment is appropriate and in accordance with laws and regulations.”
 
Touch Chan Kosal, a secretary of state at the Public Works and Transport Ministry, said a lack of enforcement also prompted government officials to scrap parts of the law. A working group with members from a variety of ministries examined the law and decided on amendments to nine articles.
 
The initial Traffic Law was passed in January, but outcry over the law’s new rules and regulations forced officials to push its roll out date back to March and remove some stipulations from the law.
 
Among a bevy of complaints, citizens said the prices for licenses were too high and questioned whether enough was being done to preemptively stop corrupt traffic police officers from taking advantage of the new law.
 
Government officials have lauded the law and its implementation, pointing to decreased road accident numbers this year as evidence that their plan was having an effect.
 
But a nearly year-long report into the law’s implementation released late last month by Stakeholder Engagement and Support found that more than 60 percent of respondents either knew little about the new law or nothing at all.
 
The Transport Ministry has said it is trying to spread the message about the rules within the new law, but they are having little success without strict police enforcers backing it up.
 
Him Yan, the deputy National Police Commissioner, told the National Police website last week that there have been 3,338 reported traffic accidents, down 11 percent from the 3,789 during the same period last year.
 
“The number [of accidents] not only decreased, but also the number of dead and injured decreased as well,” Mr. Yan said. “There were 1,576 people who died and 5,962 people were injured in 11 months.”
 
Despite its successes, parts of the law are still being routinely ignored.
 
Yesterday, Public Works and Transport Minister Sun Chanthol, who is also the permanent vice-chairman of the National Road Safety Committee, told state news organization Agency Kampuchea Press (AKP) that the ministry would ban truck drivers without licenses from taking workers to and from factories.
 
This rule is already in the new Traffic Law, but has been ignored – as evidenced by the continuing number of garment factory truck crashes – that the ministry was forced to make a separate, explicit rule against this particular practice to force compliance.
 
According to AKP, there are more than 4,000 truck drivers across 14 provinces who ferry garment workers to and from various factories, of which more than 22 percent operate without a license.
 
Last month, 20 garment workers in Kampong Speu province’s Baset district were injured, eight severely, after the truck they were traveling in overturned. The month before, 61 garment workers in Svay Rieng province’s Bavet district were injured in a similar accident.
 
None of those involved in the accident were wearing seatbelts – as garment workers are forced to stand in most trucks transporting them to work – and it was unclear whether the drivers involved in both accidents had licenses or any qualifications to operate a large truck.

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