Transport Ministry Calls for Crackdown on Illegal Checkpoints

The Ministry of Public Works and Transport has urged local authorities to step up the elimination of illegal checkpoints in their jurisdictions amid a high-profile probe of military police who opened fire on a truck that sped through two checkpoints in Tbong Khmum province earlier this month.

Transport Ministry Secretary of State Lim Sidenin issued the letter to all municipal and provincial public works departments on Friday.

“The Ministry of Public Works wishes to praise the concern of the chiefs of some municipal and provincial public works departments who are working to eliminate illegal weigh stations along the roads,” it says.

The letter adds that some jurisdictions are still host to illegal weigh stations, however, and urged the authorities there to take “strict action” to eliminate them.

Contacted Sunday, Mr. Sidenin said there were many illegal checkpoints across the country being used to extort money from drivers and that the letter had been prompted by the recent shooting incident.

“We issued the letter to tell the municipal and provincial public works departments to eliminate illegal weigh stations because recently, there have been many illegal weigh stations, and they caused a shooting in Tbong Khmum and Prey Veng provinces,” he said.

“We have to strictly implement the policy of Samdech [Prime Minister Hun Sen] because we banned illegal weigh stations a long time ago, but they are still breaking the law.”

Mr. Sidenin referred additional questions to Kim Borey, head of the ministry’s public works department. Mr. Borey said he had no idea how many illegal checkpoints there might be across the country or how widespread the problem was. He also declined to elaborate on the shooting.

On March 19, military police in Prey Veng shot through the windshield of a truck that had sped through a pair of checkpoints in neighboring Tbong Khmum. After the truck came to a stop, they hog-tied the driver and his assistant and beat them. The national military police have established an ad hoc commission to investigate the incident.

On Sunday, national military police spokesman Kheng Tito declined to comment on the progress of the commission’s probe because it was still underway.

Deputy Prey Veng military police commander Kim Phanny said four of the province’s military police officers were suspected of being involved in the shooting but had yet to be detained because the investigation was ongoing.

In 2000, Prime Minister Hun Sen threatened to have officials summarily fired if they used checkpoints to extort money from road users. However, they remain a constant problem, according to Am Sam Ath, technical supervisor for rights group Licadho. Though the NGO does not keep a record of reports of illegal checkpoints, he said, most came from Tbong Khmum and Kompong Cham provinces.

Mr. Sam Ath said a related problem involved officials at legal checkpoints demanding money for goods that should be allowed to pass through untaxed.

“We don’t get official complaints, but we get reports from businesspeople who complain that they pay even though their goods are legal,” he said. “[Officers] don’t collect money for the nation, but for themselves.”

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