Traffic police across the country have still not resumed enforcing traffic laws after a pre-election enforcement moratorium that was meant to last just a few weeks ahead of the July 28 poll, according to government and U.N. officials.
“The superiors ordered [police] to stop, for a short period, enforcing the traffic laws because of the election,” Preap Chanvibol, director of the Ministry of Public Works and Transportation’s land transportation department, said Wednesday. “Enforcement has been stopped since July until now, but it will begin again as soon as possible.”
About a dozen traffic police officers stationed along Norodom and Sihanouk boulevards this week confirmed that they had received orders before the election not to enforce laws or issue fines, and had never been told to begin again. Instead, they were simply “monitoring” intersections.
“Our superior has ordered us to stop punishing drivers since June. We don’t know the reason or when it will end,” said one officer who declined to give his name because he was not authorized to speak to the media. “I think it is easily causing more traffic accidents to happen, because people are not respecting the traffic laws.”
In early July, then-Phnom Penh traffic police chief Heng Chantheary said officers were not fining drivers for traffic violations because priority was being given to election campaign safety. But at the time, the fine-free period was expected to last only a few weeks.
Mr. Chantheary, who is now the deputy municipal police chief in charge of public order, declined to comment on why the moratorium has lasted more than four months, referring questions to Chev Hak, the new traffic police chief. Mr. Hak also declined to comment.
Sao Sovanratnak, the World Health Organization’s national professional officer in charge of road safety and injury prevention, said the government had cited post-election uncertainty and rainy season flooding for the delay in enforcing traffic laws.
“During the election, they were apparently told not to enforce traffic laws. After the election, because of the political instability and demonstrations, this is why the government continued to tell them not to enforce laws. Flooding also caused lack of enforcement, particularly in the provinces, so they focused efforts on things such as security and safety. This is also why they could not resume [enforcement],” he said.
Mr. Sovanratnak said traffic enforcement would begin again “soon” and that police have already met to discuss an enforcement strategy.
“Police will work from 8 a.m. to 6 p.m. and start conducting enforcement for traffic violations. Then 6 p.m. until 8 p.m. will be for enforcement of helmet [regulations], and 8 p.m. to 10 p.m. will be enforcement of drinking and driving,” he said.
(Additional reporting by Ben Woods and Hul Reaksmey)