Following this month’s government order to prepare for the notoriously accident-filled Chinese New Year weekend, police around the country are strengthening their safety and security programs, officials said this week.
“We are not only strengthening [the forces] to prevent traffic accidents but also trying to focus on general public order in the whole country during the Chinese New Year,” said Hem Yan, director of public order at the Interior Ministry. Provincial and municipal police chiefs are responsible for executing the national-level order, he said.
Chev Hak, deputy traffic police chief in Phnom Penh, said Monday that the municipality will double police numbers at checkpoints this weekend.
They will focus on national roads leading out of the city, he noted, which tend to be crowded the first day of the three-day holiday, which begins this Sunday, as people head to the provinces. “Moreover, we will be checking for drunk drivers and speeding inside the city,” he added.
Preah Sihanouk provincial police chief Tak Vantha said Monday that his police were preparing for the influx of traffic during the holiday.
“We have been preparing a plan to prevent” traffic accidents, he said. “We will execute the law to make sure people are wearing helmets, check their driving speed and prevent drunk driving.”
He added that his subordinates are currently in Phnom Penh and receiving training in the use of speed-detecting radar guns.
Amra Ou, the Road Traffic Accident and Victim Information System officer at Handicap International Belgium, said yesterday that year over year the number of accidents and fatalities had been improving. While 2009 figures are not finalized, she noted, there appears to be a major drop of Chinese New Year casualties—573 injuries in the two weeks surrounding the holiday, compared with 778 during the same period in 2008. Nevertheless, she said, the holiday still poses a major difficulty.
“People drive back to their hometown, more people are on the road [in overloaded vehicles], more people drive drunk, drive fast, try and overtake other cars,” she said.
(Additional reporting by Abby Seiff)