No License Needed for Small-Engine Motorbikes—Officially

The National Assembly on Monday approved nine amendments to the traffic law, raising the minimum driving age, increasing penalties for some driving infractions and removing a license requirement for drivers of motorbikes with 125cc engines and smaller.

In January, weeks after the new traffic law came into effect, Prime Minister Hun Sen announced that drivers of small-engine motorbikes and scooters no longer needed licenses. His mandate was formally integrated into the law on Monday when lawmakers voted 93 to 7 in favor of the amendments.

cam photo traffic law
Acting CNRP President Kem Sokha signs in to a National Assembly session on Monday in Phnom Penh. (Siv Channa/The Cambodia Daily)

“The biggest problem is not drivers’ licenses, but the need to know about the traffic law,” Mr. Hun Sen told parliament on Monday, recalling how drivers appealed to him to reduce the cost of a license earlier this year.

“At that time, I decided that they do not all need [a license],” Mr. Hun Sen said.

Acting CNRP President Kem Sokha endorsed the ruling CPP’s slate of amendments and said the party was not taking a position on licenses.

“For me, I support these amendments,” Mr. Sokha said. “The CNRP does not have a policy to delete or not delete drivers’ licenses.”

Other CNRP parliamentarians called for some kind of certification for drivers.

“I don’t reject it, but I ask that the government do something to educate drivers about the traffic law,” opposition lawmaker Eng Chhay Eang said.

Motorbikes comprised 87 percent of the nation’s vehicles and riders made up nearly 70 percent of road fatalities in 2013, according to a National Road Safety Committee report.

A further amendment raised the minimum driving age from 16 to 18 years old, while another raised the punishment for people driving motorcycles or cars without a license or a suspended license. They will now face one to six months in prison and fines of 800,000 to 4 million riel, or about $200 to $1,000.

Those caught driving without a vehicle identification card or license plate more than once may now be fined 400,000 to 1 million riel, or $100 to $250, although motorbikes, motor-tricycles and tuk-tuks are exempted from the new penalty.

Ear Chariya, director of the Institute for Road Safety, said that his greatest concern about the updated law was the removal of licensing regulations.

“When we revoke [the requirement of] a driver’s license for motorcycle drivers…we are allowing those drivers to be free to drive a motorcycle without the knowledge of how to drive,” Mr. Chariya said.

(Additional reporting by Matt Surrusco)

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