The arrest of a few drivers for not being able to pay the newly-enforced traffic fines has resulted in verbal spats between police officers and motorists and even the arrest of a few drivers in Svay Rieng province.
The National Police have started implementing new fines for almost all traffic and road safety violations since May 1, including higher fines for driving without a license or registration, drunk driving and not having rear view mirrors or license plates.
Social media posts show verbal spats between motorists and police officers across the country, in some cases vehicles have been confiscated and in more extreme instances people were arrested for not being able to pay these higher fines.
This was the case in Svay Rieng where Suor Thy, deputy police chief of Chantrea district, asked his officers to handcuff three remorque drivers for being unable to pay fines for not having a driving license. The fine for not having a driving license was increased from $4 to $15.
A video posted online shows one man being handcuffed, and his wife being held back by officers for protesting the arrest. The man who is also resisting the arrest is put in the back of a white car and driven off.
“If we look at the photos captured, it’s cruel. It’s like they committed crimes such as killing people,” said Nouth Bopin Naroath, Svay Rieng provincial coordinator for local rights group Licadho.
The rights groups staffer added that villagers protested the three arrests after which the motorists were released, and the deputy police chief Sour Thy was suspended from work.
Chhay Kim Khoeun, spokesperson for the National Police, told VOA Khmer that Suor Thy was suspended for a period of time in order to be educated and get his morality strengthened.
“Regarding morality, it’s very important. Thus, firstly, we asked him to make a public apology. Secondly, we take him for re-education, keeping him at one place,” he said.
Other posts on Facebook, showed motorcycle riders complaining about being fined for not having a license or rearview mirrors, adding that they did not have the money to pay the hefty fines.
The hefty fines are being enforced amidst potentially the worst economic crisis to hit the globe, with a number of reports suggesting Cambodia’s economy to suffer its worst growth in decades.
They also come months after Interior Minister Sar Kheng lamented the inability of the government to prevent the steady increase of road accidents and deaths last year. He appeared helpless and asked stakeholders to provide a solution for the problem.
Chhay Kim Khoeun added that National Police chief Neth Savoeun had asked officers to only issue the violations but not collect the fine immediately, to prevent these spats.
“Now, the police stop taking money from the people. If they are found committing wrongdoing, we advise them and write them a receipt, so they can pay cash at the police posts set up in specific locations,” he said.
National Police statistics showed that around 8,0000 vehicles had been fined by the police officers in the last five days. Of this number, 6,000 were motorists on motorcycles and nearly 2,000 were cars owners
The most common offenses committed by motorbike riders was driving without helmets, whereas car owners were caught not wearing seat belts, talking on their phones, driving over the speed limit, and for being overloaded in the case of transportation vehicles.
Kong Rotanak, director of Institute for Road Safety, told VOA Khmer that even though there were arguments between police officers and motorists, he encouraged the continued implementation of the law to deter drivers from breaking the traffic law.
“I encourage that we continue to do this and both the authorities and citizens must take part and listen to each other about the reasons because the objective of implementing the law is to improve traffic conditions for all,” he said.