Police Increase Traffic Control, Unofficial Fines During Festival

As Cambodians head home for Khmer New Year, traffic flow across the country is swelling, and police said yesterday that they had deployed extra officers around Phnom Penh to monitor traffic.

But the pre-New Year crush is also a time for police to rake in unofficial payments from vehicles at higher rates than normal, ac­cording to taxi drivers and a small businesses representative.

Phnom Penh municipal deputy traffic police chief Chev Hak said 388 traffic police officers had been stationed across the city to guide busy pre-festival traffic—two to three times more than normal.

Police, however, also step up their practice of asking drivers for un­official payments, some drivers said.

Sam Rithdy, who taxis passengers from Phnom Penh to Preah Sihanouk province, said he was fre­quently asked to pay police one or two thousand riel, but during the festival traffic yesterday these fees doubled or tripled.

“When traffic police organize public order, they ask for more money from taxi drivers during Khmer New Year,” he said.

At the Chroy Changva bridge in Phnom Penh yesterday, police could be seen pulling over numerous vehicles to take payments, with one officer placing a stack of thousand-riel notes in a motorbike parked nearby.

Vorn Pao, director of the Inde­pen­dent Democratic Informal Econo­mic Association, said this practice was common and police increased their demand for payments during festivals.

“In Phnom Penh, traffic police officers…always demand double the amount of money from business owners and vehicle drivers…especially during Khmer New Year,” he said.

Mr Hak, the municipal deputy traffic police chief, admitted that the practice occurred, but insisted it was not widespread.

“These are only personal ac­tions by a small group of police officers,” Mr Hak said. “We don’t have an order for traffic police to get tips from vehicle drivers.”

He added that any officer caught collecting unofficial fines could face punishment under the Traffic Law of be­tween one and three years imprisonment.



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