An opposition lawmaker Wednesday used a sitting of the National Assembly—called to pass the third and fourth chapters of the new traffic law—to demand that Transport Minister Tram Iv Tek repair Cambodia’s dilapidated roads or resign from his position.
The National Assembly on Monday passed the first two chapters of the new traffic law by a near-unanimous vote before gathering again Wednesday to consider the next two chapters concerning drivers and the use of headlights and horns.
These were passed almost without debate, with 99 of 102 lawmakers approving the third chapter, and all 101 present at the next ballot approving the fourth.
Yet proceedings leading up to the votes focused on CNRP lawmaker Ly Sreyvyna, a medical doctor and long-serving opposition parliamentarian, who launched into a tirade against deaths on Cambodia’s roads.
Ms. Sreyvyna said the majority of foreign debt taken on by the government went toward building roads, which she said were then promptly destroyed by unregulated overuse.
“If we allow the quality of the streets to be exploited and let the large container trucks destroy the streets like this, I think there will be nothing left for the next generation except for the legacy of debt and the damaged streets,” she said.
Ms. Sreyvyna called on Mr. Iv Tek to ensure that roads did not turn into deathtraps for motorists.
“There are only two choices for his excellency: The first choice is that you can be the roads minister and then you have to protect the roads,” she said. “If you cannot protect the roads, the second choice is that his excellency ceases to be minister.”
CPP lawmaker Chheang Vun took to the floor to defend the Transport Ministry, saying that calls for better quality roads were shortsighted and did not take into account benefits of cost-cutting in building roads.
“Our population is already more than 14 million people, and if we build a few good quality short roads, it will benefit only the people in the city and the towns while the poor people in the countryside will receive no benefit from it,” he said.
“[It] is to make sure that end results we get from economic growth are shared with the people in the countryside.”
Also taking to the floor, Mr. Iv Tek acknowledged complaints about Cambodia’s damaged roads. He noted that National Road 6A, the highway between Phnom Penh and Kompong Cham City, is undergoing such a protracted period of construction that its state of dilapidation has spanned entire seasons.
“We have had meetings many times with the builders, and we recognize that in the dry season it is dusty and in the rainy season it becomes mud,” he said.