Prime Minister Hun Sen continued his personal alterations to the recently implemented Land Traffic Law on Wednesday, announcing that drivers of standard motorbikes and scooters would no longer be required to have licenses.
The premier explained in a Facebook post on Wednesday evening that the decision was in response to complaints from “compatriots, especially youth and students” about the price of obtaining licenses.
After discussions with Interior Minister Sar Kheng, Finance Minister Aun Porn Moniroth and Transport Minister Tram Iv Tek, Mr. Hun Sen decided to “completely stop requiring the license for driving the motorbike from 125cc down, from now onward,” it said.
“So people who drive motorbikes with 125cc or less don’t need to pay for the license and don’t need to have it at all.”
Mr. Hun Sen added in the post that he would request that relevant legislative bodies amend the brand new Land Traffic Law—which police began implementing on January 1—as a “gift to all Cambodian compatriots on January 7 anniversary, 2016.”
Speaking at the inauguration of the Pram Makara overpass in Phnom Penh on Tuesday, Mr. Hun Sen said that he would waive the need for a driving test for those with small-engine motorbikes because “there is no need to learn how to drive a motorbike since driving a motorbike is not difficult.”
The new traffic law—which requires passengers to wear helmets and limits the number of passengers to one adult and one child, among other things—has gotten off to a shaky start, with fines enforced irregularly and a seeming lack of communication among officials.
Before Mr. Hun Sen’s statement on Wednesday, Run Rothveasna, head of the Ministry of Interior’s department of public order, said police across the country had been ordered to temporarily stop fining vehicles for a lack of documentation, such as registration cards, vehicle inspection papers and driver’s licenses, which are required by the new law.
“The order from the leaders is that [we] temporarily stop fining drivers, but it doesn’t mean we stop checking at targeted areas,” he said, adding that motorists were still being advised to obtain the documents.
Pagna Kim, country director for the Asia Injury Prevention Fund, said the decision to waive driving tests—-let alone licenses—was a dangerous move, regardless of engine power.
“If we talk about safety measures it is not a good idea at all,” he said. “We should provide some kind of training on key driving skills before we give them a motorcycle driving license.”
Rights group Adhoc issued a statement on Wednesday, before Mr. Hun Sen’s Facebook post, calling for the government to postpone the issuing of licenses in order to give people time to learn the laws and take driving tests.
“Otherwise, the issuance of licenses is worthless and…we will not be able to prevent and reduce traffic accidents,” it said.
(Additional reporting by Taylor O’Connell)