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Hun Sen Warns of Strict Helmet Policy

Prime Minister Hun Sen on Monday called on motorcycle riders to wear helmets “100 percent” to avoid the hundreds of traffic fatalities that occur each year.

“If you want to drive your motorcycle without a fine, you must wear your helmet from now on,” he said during a graduate student ceremony in Phnom Penh, “to protect your life and to avoid road accidents as well as property damage.”

More the 1,500 people were reported killed in traffic accidents in 2007, nearly double the number in 2003. An Asian Development Bank survey in 2003 counted 824 dead in road accidents, estimating a $116 million cost to the country.

“The traffic law will be fully implemented and fined from Jan. 1, 2009, because the road accidents causes the loss of human life more and more,” Hun Sen said, calling traffic fatalities a “bigger disaster” than AIDS and land mines.

The prime minister also called on civil servants, police and commune and village leaders to wear helmets as an example, while urging helmet vendors to keep prices low.

Travel on Cambodian roadways without a helmet is punishable by a 3,000 riel, or $0.70, fine. By contrast, a helmet can cost between $10 and $20.

Meas Chan Dy, coordinator for helmet safety at Handicap International Belgium, called helmets “a very good measure for reducing road accidents,” and he urged strong implementation of all traffic laws for all vehicles.

Brig. Gen. Tho Khan, director of traffic order for the Ministry of Interior, said Monday police would strengthen the traffic law “with efficiency and effectiveness.”

“More importantly, we must introduce people to understanding the law and help protect their lives and property,” he said.