Military Police Pegged for Traffic-Control Role

Military Police Pegged for Traffic-Control Role

Municipal Military Police are launching an operation against a foe that is killing more people in Phnom Penh than robbers, kidnappers and jealous lovers combined.

The cause of this carnage, officials say, is sloppy and dangerous driving that is becoming a major security concern for the city.

Last year, traffic accidents in Phnom Penh increased by 40 compared to 1999, Prime Minis­ter Hun Sen told the capital’s police chiefs and hundreds of district and commune level officials at the inauguration of the new Mili­tary Police headquarters Mon­day.

Hun Sen said the situation is setting a bad example for the rest of the country and he ordered mu­nicipal authorities to monitor the traffic situation closely.

“When Phnom Penh has stability it provides a good model for the countryside. But if Phnom Penh is insecure it also provides a bad model for the countryside,” Hun Sen said.

While the crime rate in Phnom Penh dropped slightly in 2000 compared with 1999, Municipal Police Chief Suon Chhengly said the increase in road accidents is worrying.

Last year 76 people died and 86 others were seriously injured in 466 reported road accidents in Phnom Penh, Suon Chhengly said.

The seriousness of the problem now warrants the use of the country’s military police force, Phnom Penh Governor Chea Sophara said Wednesday.

With their high level of training, motivation and respect from the public, the Military Police will be able to get results the city’s traffic police have been unable to achieve, Chea Sophara said.

Already “the Military Police provide support for traffic police but this time the [Military Police] will control the traffic,” Chea Sophara said.

He said the Military Police can better control traffic because people obey them.

In the next two weeks, Military Police will start the new traffic crackdown, which will include a public education program on road rules, spot checks for driving licenses and fines for those who break the rules or do not have a license. Military Police will also be deployed at night on city streets.

“After this campaign if [drivers] do not obey the rules, they will be fined,” Chea Sophara said.

He said he wants to make driving instruction mandatory to obtain a driving license.

Municipal Military Police commander Chhin Chanpor said military police will still focus primarily on controlling general security on the streets, while traffic police will continue the task of enforcing the rules of the road. The military police will assist traffic police and offer a strong arm when necessary, he said.

El Samneang, chief of Phnom Penh Traffic Police, said road deaths are rising because vehicles are being driven by people who do not know or do not understand that there are driving rules.

More military police on the streets are welcome, El Sam­neang said, noting that cooperation on road security already exists between both police forces.

But not everyone is sure the military police will be able to solve the city’s traffic woes.

Stationed at his usual post on Norodom Boulevard, Traffic Police officer Ich Samedi said taking money from people who break the rules of the road is better than enforcing the law.

By charging people his own fines for traffic violations, Ich Sam­edi says he can make up for his low government salary and also provide a public service by preventing people from having to pay larger court fines.

“This is better for the people also because if we send them to the traffic office the fine will be much larger,” Ich Samedi said.

While military police may command more respect, they too are not immune from taking “tea money” in return for turning a blind eye to the law, he said.

“Don’t blame the traffic police for taking money from the people. The Military Police take also,” he said. “But the traffic police do it openly.”


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