Illegal checkpoints, once used to harass travelers in the northwest, have begun reappearing in Banteay Meanchey and Battambang provinces in recent months, drivers say.
“I have paid every traffic police checkpoint along National Route 5 and I’ve had to pay five checkpoints,” said taxi driver Doung Thin, who works the route between Phnom Penh and Poipet.
Prime Minister Hun Sen in 1998 announced a crackdown on the illegal checkpoints, which police and customs officials use solely to line their pockets, but they appear to have made a comeback in the remote northwest, motorists report.
“Before the election in 1998, there were no checkpoints along the road from Phnom Penh to Banteay Meanchey province, but today there are lots. I don’t mind paying taxes, but is should be a proper one and not just go into private pockets,” Doung Thin said.
There are six checkpoints around Battambang town, five on National Route 5 and one on Street 10 in the provincial capital, officials said. There are at least five checkpoints in Banteay Meanchey town and two more on the roads to Poipet, divers said.
The illegal checkpoints are driving taxis out of business, cab driver Chhea Vann said.
“I don’t understand why they take money from me because I already paid the taxi station in Battambang 5,000 riel (about $1.25) and more than 10,000 riel (about $2.50) in Phnom Penh,” Chhea Vann said.
Banteay Meanchey province Governor Thach Korn has promised to investigate the matter, acknowledging the government’s policy of restricting unauthorized checkpoints.
“The province has not ordered any new checkpoints because of the government order in 1998,” Thach Korn said.
But some of the checkpoints are needed to help crackdown on speeders who threaten travelers along the northwest’s newly paved roads, Battambang province Police Chief Heng Chantha said.
“We received an order from the governor to watch over speeding, since the roads have improved and accidents are on the rise,” the chief said.
There are up to three fatalities along Battambang’s roads per day, Heng Chantha said.