Over $3M in traffic fines collected in two months

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Armed police officers stand guard on a busy street in Phnom Penh’s Chamkarmon district in May. Hean Rangsey

Traffic police officers collected over $3 million in fines throughout the Kingdom during the past two months when officers strictly enforced the law in accordance with a May sub-decree, officials said.

As incentives, law enforcement officers received between 200,000 and two million riel ($50 to $500) each.

The figures were made public during the National Road Safety Committee’s (NRSC) conference, which analysed road traffic safety during the first six months of this year.

Held at the Ministry of Interior on Tuesday, the conference was also attended by officials from the National Police and the Ministry of Public Works and Transport.

Transport ministry secretary of state and NRSC secretary-general Min Manvy said during that timeframe, 1,619 traffic accidents occurred in the country, causing 816 deaths and 2,449 injuries.

Phnom Penh recorded the most deaths with 146, followed by Kampong Thom province (60) and Kandal province (59).

Manvy said 33 per cent of the accidents were caused by excessive speeding, 23 per cent through disregarding traffic signs and 14 per cent by not obeying the right of way.

Other factors included dangerous overtaking, making turns in dangerous circumstances, vehicle-related factors and driving while drowsy.

During the same period, police inspected nearly one million vehicles, 61 per cent of which were motorcycles. Of the number, 234,114 (24 per cent), were found to be illegal and had been fined. Motorbikes accounted for 65 per cent of the fines.

Vans transporting workers recorded seven accidents, leaving three dead and 200 injured.

In May and June, police issued 83,386 fines, 73 per cent of which were issued to motorcycle riders.

Manvy said during the two months, traffic police at road traffic stations issued over 12.5 billion riel in fines. But 20 per cent of the fines have not yet been paid.

National Police chief Neth Savoeun attributed the decrease in traffic accidents to traffic law enforcement.

Vehicle operators changed their attitude by respecting the law, Savoeun said. While commending traffic police heads and law enforcement officers in Phnom Penh, he criticised law enforcement officers in Kampong Thom and Kampot provinces for the rise in traffic accidents there.

“Kampong Thom represents the biggest disgrace for the police. A traffic police officer [Rom Sovichea] was drunk and crashed into a garden. He even insulted the provincial governor. I don’t want to speak about it but I have to. Law enforcement in that place remains limited,” he said.

Savoeun said the incentives were specifically distributed to different official branches. He said 70 per cent of the total was given to police officers, 25 per cent was given to police departments to be spent on units as a whole, and five per cent was given to the State.

However, the State did not receive its full share as some of the incentive was used to produce and disseminate documents on traffic laws.

He said the lowest amount a police officer received as a bonus was 200,000 riel per month. Officers in Takeo province, which issued the least fines of any province in the country, received this amount.

In Phnom Penh, where the highest number of fines was issued, officers received two million riel per month.

Concerning traffic law enforcement, Manvy noted two kinds of reactions from the public and civil society organisations – pessimist, inconsiderate reactions with political bias and constructive reactions and requests.

“Pessimists intend to incite disruptions to society and oppose the moves taken by the police and the government. They use social media, fake websites and fake pictures to attack the police and the government,” she said.

She said government critics claimed the increased fines affected peoples’ livelihoods or that the government acted wrongly by choosing to enforce the new fines during the Covid-19 crisis.

Asia Injury Prevention Foundation country director Kim Pagna said traffic accidents decreased when the Road Traffic Law began to be strictly enforced. He applauded police efforts to enforce the law and encouraged them to enforce it strictly, transparently and equally.

He urged the police to educate citizens about law enforcement. The relevant authorities should respond quickly to reactions by citizens. Sometimes citizens make mistakes and sometimes, the police are at fault, he said.