Sunday, 14 February 2016

Hun Sen Throws Commuters Under the Bus

“The law is made according to the actual situation of our country with consultations with both government institutions and civil society organisations and experts”.

National Police spokesman Kirt Chantharith, 11 January 2016, The Phnom Penh Post

“Knowledge about the law, especially among rural people, is limited… And police officers are not sure how to respond to certain situations like overloaded vehicles.”

Capital police chief Chhoun Sovan, 5 January 2016, The Phnom Penh Post

“I sent back a message to my younger sister to understand the issue. Although there are some problems [with the law], life is more important,” he said.

Premier Hun Sen, 6 January 2016, The Cambodia Daily

“There is no need to learn how to drive a motorbike [125cc or less] since driving a motorbike is not difficult.”

Premier Hun Sen, 7 January 2016, The Cambodia Daily

“They [garment workers who were killed in traffic accidents on their way to and from factories] should have advised the drivers on how to drive. They should have advised them because they were the ones on the truck, and placed their lives in the hands of the drivers.”

NSSF deputy director Sum Sophorn, 5 February 2016, The Cambodia Daily

“If they [garment workers] don’t care about their own lives, then who’s going to care for them?”

Secretary-general Ken Loo, Garment Manufacturers Association, 5 February 2016, The Cambodia Daily

Stepping into 2016, Cambodian commuters may or may not be aware that they are facing a better chance of getting killed on the road. Within the first 20 days of the new year, the number of traffic deaths reaches 131, which is 25% more than that in 2015 corresponding period.

In fact, the better chance of getting killed has been on the increase since 2007. Traffic accidents in 2007 claim 1,545 lives; the number jumps to 2,265 in 2015. This means the annual increase is averaged at 4.9% per year. However, the rate is much higher at 7.8% between 2013 and 2015. The government’s 2011-2020 national road safety action plan predicts that, without any intervention, the road toll will hit 3,200 by 2020.

Naturally, the government comes up with an intervention plan. A new traffic law is promulgated in January 2015. The police is certain that the law is well-formulated to best suit the circumstances with all necessary consultations, which means no changes are expected at least in the short run. It is also reasonable that the law would not be implemented until a year later so that the public can be better educated and prepared for the new traffic rules.

As it turns out a year later, a few are ready for the new rules. According to the capital police chief, many including police officers are not certain about them. Even the minister for information claims that drivers for top government officials do not know much about the new rules, and that they need a crash course. It seems the government fails the nation by not doing their job in educating the public and their employees about them.

Anyhow, amid confusion and frustration arising from the not-so-well-prepared implementation of the new rules, Hun Sen steps in and instigates some changes in impromtu responses to complaints from some of his Facebook fans.

Hun Sen steamrolls the new traffic rules with some interesting newly-found wisdom. He says that life is more important than some of the problems with the new traffic regulations; yet, he fails to understand that his cancellation of the license requirements for riding motorcycles of 125cc power or less will make the roads more deadly.

He may be right that it is easy to learn how to ride a not-so-powerful motorbike. But he is certainly confused between knowing how to ride and knowing traffic rules. An accomplished rider/driver will need both. He simply cannot see the link between accidents and ignorance of traffic rules. Up to 2014, a total of 2,780,735 vehicles are registered in Cambodia, of which 2,353,051 (84.6%) are motorbikes. As the less powerful motorcycles make up a large chunks of it and the 73% of road deaths are motorcycle riders, riders could look forward to a higher percentage of death from accidents.

However, the consolation is that it does not really matter how bad the traffic rules are, or how poorly they are implemented, victims can always be blamed for not caring for their lives.

Ung Bun Ang

Parthian Shot

Sar Kheng sounds tough and serious on enforcing the traffic law onto his generals. But he is really soft when it comes to his son’s needs. For the son’s wedding, he closes a few streets for a few days, which is against the law; he says he knows the public will understand, will they?

“Now is the time we have to enforce the law and not care if someone is big or small. Oh! I am a general and I’m driving a car without respect for the law. [We] altogether cannot do like this under the law. If there was any minister doing wrong and traffic police fine them, I will give them one stripe.”

Interior Minister Sar Kheng, 16 December 2015, The Cambodia Daily

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