Senator Stopped Over ‘Fake’ License Plate

An opposition senator has written to Senate President Say Chhum complaining that about 30 armed police prevented him from traveling to meet his constituency in Oddar Meanchey province on May 10 because his license plate did not match his car.

Sor Chandeth of the Sam Rainsy Party wrote to Mr. Chhum on Thursday to tell him the authorities stopped his car and demanded he remove his Senate license plates, as they were not properly registered to the vehicle he was in.

Mr. Chandeth said by telephone on Sunday that he regularly shifts the special license plate he gets as a senator between cars, but said that was normal practice. He said he believed forces, led by Thou Sothea, chief of the provincial traffic police bureau, had used the issue as a pretext to prevent him from visiting local residents.

“A Senate license plate just recognizes the person in the car. It’s not required to be on any specific car,” he said. “I see everyone changing them around like this.”

While the practice of lawmakers shifting plates between vehicles is common, Run Rathveasna, director of the National Police’s public order department, said that it was nonetheless illegal and that license plates must be on the vehicle to which they are registered.

“He had two number plates. Which one was the correct one?” Mr. Rathveasna said, defending the police who stopped Mr. Chandeth against the senator’s claims that they violated his immunity from arrest as a senator.

“They followed the law. It was not against the law, and they did not arrest him for a crime—it can be considered an understanding, because he used a fake number plate under Article 78,” he said, referring to the Traffic Law passed last year.

“Even a civilian’s number plate, it is required to be attached to a car, and you cannot use one number plate on a different car without proper documents,” he added.

Mr. Chandeth said he would release an open letter today highlighting the widespread practice among elected officials of shifting plates.

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