During the first two days of the Khmer New Year holiday, 17 people died and nearly 100 were injured in traffic accidents, indicating that there may be fewer traffic fatalities over the three-day holiday than last year, officials said yesterday.
More than two thirds of Phnom Penh’s two million residents have left the capital since Tuesday and headed to the provinces to celebrate Khmer New Year, according to Hem Yan, director of the Interior Ministry’s public order department.
“Today the traffic in Phnom Penh is very quiet since around 70 percent of citizens have left the city for either their hometowns or tourist attractions,” Mr Yan said.
But during the early New Year traffic rush, 17 people died, 46 were seriously injured and 45 others sustained minor injuries, Mr Yan said. This puts the accident rate on track to improve from last year, when there were 52 traffic fatalities over the four-day holiday period.
“The accidents mostly occurred when motorbikes crashed into each other, or because of speeding, overloading and drunk driving,” he said.
In Phnom Penh, there have been very few accidents over the past few days, and no crimes at all, according to municipal police chief Touch Naruth.
“Now our forces are reshuffled for relaxing but they’re still staying in touch with the situation,” Mr Naruth said. He declined to provide the exact number of police working in the capital over the holiday.
Seng Chhuon, director of the Neak Loeung Ferry, which transports passengers across the Mekong River from Kandal province to Prey Veng, said yesterday that traffic at the ferry had been less congested in comparison with previous years due to the recent opening of two new bridges in Kandal this week.
The newly built Prek Kdam bridge was inaugurated on Saturday in Ponhea Leu district, while Prek Tamak bridge–which is still under construction, but 90 percent complete–was temporarily opened for the holiday on orders from Prime Minister Hun Sen.
“Now the progress of the ferry is very good. There is no traffic jam as last year,” said Mr Chhoeun. “In the past people had to wait around four to five hours on the days when many people were leaving the city for their homelands.”
Neak Loeung ferry traffic has also benefited this year from the addition of two new boats at the Prek Kdam ferry crossing, which became less crowded with the opening of the bridges.
In the days before Khmer New Year, between 10,000 and 20,000 people per day crossed the Mekong on the ferry, Mr Chhoeun added.
Tak Vantha, the Preah Sihanouk provincial police chief, said yesterday that traffic in Preah Sihanouk City and along National Road 4 was very busy, with traffic accidents killing two people.
More than 300 military police and police officers in Preah Sihanouk are working together to provide security to tourists during the Khmer New Year celebrations, he added.
“We’re providing special services for these days,” he said. “Now there is no crime occurring.”