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City Sees Lowered Holiday Traffic Injuries

City officials say an increased police presence has reduced the number of injuries in Phnom Penh during the annual Pchum Ben exodus.

At least two people died and two others were injured in a traffic accidents in the capital, less injuries but the same fatalities as in Pchum Ben traffic last year, officials said Tuesday.

Traditionally a time of heavy travel outside of the city, Pchum Ben, a festival honoring deceased ancestors, means quiet streets in Phnom Penh. But the resulting exodus can also lead to a high number of traffic accidents, injuries and death, as drivers jostle with each other to leave town.

Tin Prosoeur, director of Phnom Penh's land traffic office, said Tuesday the city was better prepared this year to prevent accidents.

"This year, the municipality and Phnom Penh police prepared police forces to conduct traffic for the people to avoid aggressive driving," he said. "We've ordered people to stop driving fast, and sometimes traffic police work until midnight on Pchum Ben days."

Last year, two people died and 15 were injured in traffic accidents in Phnom Penh during the three final days of the 15-day Pchum Ben period.

Officials said Tuesday they did not have statistics from 23 other provinces and municipalities.

"Today is a holiday," said Brig. Gen. Pho Khon, director of the Ministry of Interior's public order department. "We have not yet come to work."

Meas Chandy, traffic safety coordinator for Handicap International Belgium, said Tuesday that during 15 days of Pchum Ben last year, 48 people died and 812 were injured in traffic accidents nationwide.

"We've found that people drive over their limits, drive while drunk, without a helmet, and don't respect the rule of law," he said. "That's why a lot of accidents happen."