The teenage volunteers who have become a regular sight at Phnom Penh’s busy intersections, where they encourage drivers to respect traffic laws, have had to cut their hours due to school but will be back in force after February exams, organizers said last week.
The 100 Cambodian Red Cross volunteers, aged 15 to 18, who have been spending their Saturdays and Sundays at about 20 street corners in the capital have had to reduce their hours to Sunday from 7 am to 9 am, said Chhoeng On, executive director of the Cambodian Red Cross’ Phnom Penh branch. The high school students, he said, “are very patient when they direct traffic.”
The volunteers get $2.50 for their meals, and the CRC will continue the program as long as funds last, Chhoeng On said. He declined to say how much money the CRC still had for the project.
Last September, the ranks of the volunteers swelled when Cambodian girl and boy scouts from 11 high schools joined them. A total of 519 of them took part in the campaign, during which they observed 8,586 traffic law infractions, said Seng Kuonno, a National Association of Cambodian Scouts commissioner. “People violating the law were stopped to be educated.”
The boy and girl scouts who left their traffic-control posts when school started in October will be back on street corners around March, he said.
According to Duong Ratha, a traffic police officer at the intersection of Sihanouk and Monivong boulevards, the young volunteers made a difference.
People seemed to obey traffic lights more when the young volunteers are at the street corners, he said.
“People seem embarrassed to have young students direct traffic, so they hardly violate the law,” he said.
But at times, the volunteers’ task is far from easy, said girl scout Him Somala.
Some drivers simply refused to stop when they were flagged to indicate that the traffic light they were about to ignore was red, Him Somala said. “They said that I was too young to advise them,” she said.