Phnom Penh municipal and military police will cooperate with traffic police from the capital and beyond during Khmer New Year celebrations to prevent accidents and ease traffic jams, according to the deputy chairman of the Ministry of Interior’s National Road Safety Committee.
Officers will concentrate their efforts in urban areas such as Phnom Penh, Battambang and Siem Reap where most accidents happen, NRSC deputy chief Ouk Kimlek said. The increased police effort together with recent improvements made to national roads and media campaigns informing Cambodians of the traffic law should help reduce the number of accidents during the national three-day holiday, he added.
“Our Ministry of Interior has ordered all municipal and provincial police and military police to deploy on every national road [to prevent] traffic jams and [ensure] safety for our people,” Mr Ouk Kimlek said Thursday.
Phnom Penh municipal traffic police chief Tin Prasoer said he expects Phnom Penh to stay relatively calm during the celebrations, which officially begin Tuesday, since most residents leave for the provinces. But traffic police will work 24 hours a day to keep the streets safe and as orderly as possible, particularly during the days when most people leave the capital and when they flood back, he added.
“Especially our traffic police will use our forces to stand by three directions at the bridges, where there are usually a lot of traffic jams,” Mr Tin Prasoer said. “We will deploy more traffic police to alleviate the traffic system, since we are already experienced and know that there are always traffic jams during this period.”
The time around Khmer New Year is always a cause for concern since so many people take to the roads to visit extended family, according to Sann Socheata, road safety program manager for Handicap International Belgium, a NGO providing financial and technical support for the National Road Safety Committee.
During one week of celebrations in 2008 at least 79 people died and 1,287 were injured, Ms Sann Socheata said. The number of crash victims was similar the 2007 Khmer New Year, which saw 1,296 people reported injured and 74 people killed.
Drunk drivers caused most accidents with speeders taking second place, she added, and many motorists die simply because they don’t wear helmets.
“For us we really wish to push the government and all parties [involved] to focus on these three mistakes because they are behind most accidents,” Ms Sann Socheata said.
(Additional reporting by Phorn Bopha)