The three days of official Khmer New Year celebrations from April 14-16 saw 18 deaths and nearly 80 injuries in road traffic accidents across the country. According to the National Police’s department of traffic and public order, this was a reduction over the same period last year, when 27 people lost their lives.

However, the department reported that a further 14 lost their lives on the road and 52 others were injured on April 17 this year, as most people returned from the celebrations.

In a report, it noted that 43 accidents had been reported across the Kingdom from April 14-16. The accidents resulted in 18 deaths and 77 injuries, of which 53 were considered serious. The April 17 casualties lifted these figures to 32 dead and 129 injured.

The report concluded that the main causes of the accidents were excessive speed, disrespect for the right of way, failure to keep right, overtaking other vehicles in dangerous conditions, drunk driving and weather-related factors.

National Police spokesman Chhay Kim Khoeun said this had happened despite increased police presence over the holiday period.

“We had officers working throughout the capital and provinces to manage traffic and protect travellers and revellers alike,” he said.

Kong Sovann, founder and strategic adviser at the Cambodia Safety Solution Organisation (CamSafe), said that neither civil society organisations nor the government were happy with the current accident rate, and that concerns remained.

“The government and all partner organisations consider one life lost as one too many. No families should have to lose loved ones at what is supposed to be the happiest time of the year,” he concluded.

The Khmer New Year period also saw 15 fires recorded by the police’s Fire Prevention and Rescue Department at the National Police, more than double the seven that were reported in 2022.

An April 17 report said the fires had resulted in damage to 13 houses, six rooms, one warehouse and four vehicles. One person was reported injured, but no loss of life was believed to have occurred. Eight of the cases were determined to have caused by electrical faults, while five were ignited by the careless use of candles or incense. Two cases remain under investigation.