Capital Adds License Plates to Crackdown List

Drivers in Phnom Penh should make sure their cars and motorcycles have legal front and back plates starting Monday, when the city government plans a crackdown of the much-flouted vehicle registration laws, according to a statement issued Wednesday by the municipality.

The action comes three weeks after First Deputy Governor Chea Sophara announced that the city would become more strict about license plates and insist that drivers have both a license and proper vehicle registration.

Four task forces will attempt to control all vehicles along public roads, said the statement.

Groups that are already going house-to-house checking for unregistered weapons as part of a government initiative billed as an attempt to limit the number of guns in the capital will add vehicle registration to their list of duties.

The gun crackdown began

Oct 14 with weapons checkpoints staffed by military and Flying Tiger police and a weapons buy-back program. The door-to-door searches for unregistered wea­pons started Oct 19 and worried human rights workers, security officials and lawyers who were concerned the searches would not be conducted legally.

Chea Sophara said at the time that he hoped to reduce the number of illegal weapons and explosives in the capital by 70 percent. There are more than 10,000 wea­pons registered to civilian and police forces but no numbers are available for the number of unre­gistered weapons.

Since Oct 19, the municipality’s “buy-back” program has paid 2,475,000 riel ($634) for 128 weapons including one B-40 rocket-launcher, 75 AK-47s, 21 M-16 assault rifles, 13 grenades, 12 bullets and more.

The city has tried to crack down on crime before. A law passed in 1992 stipulates penalties of one to five years in jail for “having, buying, selling, renting, lending, borrowing, keeping or producing explosives, ammunition or weapons without authorization.”

The law is rarely enforced, according to a recently released study by a group of NGOs. Crimes by armed individuals remain commonplace.

The US Embassy issued a warning during the Water Fes­t­ival for Americans to avoid crowds, after two US citizens were robbed at the event.

Chea Sophara said when the crackdown on illegal weapons began that it was prompted in part by a letter US Ambassador Kenneth Quinn wrote regarding a surge of crime against foreigners.

The door-to-door groups visited 34,900 families between Oct 19 and Oct 29, 23 percent of the total number of families, 149,015, who were counted in 1997. The teams are also taking a census as part of the preparation for ID cards of Phnom Penh residents.


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