PM Rebuffs Governor’s Proposal to Ban Imports of Used Cars

A suggestion by Phnom Penh’s governor to ban used-car imports as a way to unclog the capital’s traffic congestion was quickly shot down on Thursday by Prime Minister Hun Sen.

Pa Socheatvong told traffic police in a meeting on Tuesday that he was planning to ask the government to consider the ban, said Ty Long, deputy chief of the National Police’s public order department, who attended the meeting.

Traffic congestion along Norodom Boulevard in Phnom Penh. (Siv Channa/The Cambodia Daily)
Traffic congestion along Norodom Boulevard in Phnom Penh. (Siv Channa/The Cambodia Daily)

“It is not official yet. He only wanted to request the government to consider the matter,” Mr. Long said on Thursday.

He added that he didn’t know when the governor would make an official proposal.

Mean Chanyada, the capital’s deputy governor, however, said City Hall’s traffic plan was more about regulating the auto industry —which brings 50,000 vehicles into Cambodia each year—and about thoroughly inspecting imported cars.

The vast majority of cars sold in Cambodia are used—as many as 90 percent last year, according to Hong Vancheth, operations and sales manager at Auto Image Cambodia, an authorized Subaru distributor.

The imports are also considered a traffic hazard. A 2012 government survey, cited by EuroCham, found that 40 percent would not be considered roadworthy in their countries of origin, and 80 percent had modified odometers.

Though road safety experts said there was merit to a discussion about used-car regulations, Mr. Hun Sen said he would not consider an outright ban.

“There was an idea raised requesting that the government ban the import of used or secondhand cars,” Mr. Hun Sen wrote on his Facebook page on Thursday afternoon. “I would like to confirm to all fellow citizens that I don’t agree with the proposal.”

“Everyone, please try hard to earn the money to buy a car, but please don’t import right-hand drive cars, and please obey the traffic law,” he added.

Ear Chariya, the founding director of the Institute for Road Safety, said limiting used car imports would not end the city’s traffic woes, but could make Phnom Penh’s streets safer.

“Importing secondhand vehicles that are old and sometimes of low quality and unsafe can be related to the problem of road safety,” Mr. Chariya said.

Instead of banning imports, City Hall could ease traffic by putting up more traffic signs and clearing sidewalks of illegally parked cars and street vendors, he said.

Public transport and accessible public parking spaces would also help, he said.

In an effort to address the capital’s mounting traffic woes, a 2035 master plan for urban transport, put forward by the Japan International Cooperation Agency, proposes four driverless train lines, seven new bus lines and road and traffic management improvements —a plan that would cost $4.56 billion.

(Additional reporting by Hang Sokunthea)

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