In order to bolster Cambodia’s economic recovery efforts from the damage inflicted by the Covid-19 pandemic, Prime Minister Hun Sen has decided to return over 200 overweight cargo vehicles that were impounded by the Ministry of Public Works and Transport over the past year to penalise their owners for breaking Cambodia’s transport sector vehicle weight regulations.
He announced the decision on September 30.
“[To] support the revival of the private sector by exempting and easing punitive regulations while providing opportunities to these beleaguered business owners – for the occasion of the Pchum Ben holiday – I hereby order the ministry to return the 229 vehicles they are holding in impound for overweight transport of goods to their owners as a gesture that could mean the immediate resumption of suspended business activities”,” he said.
Hun Sen also emphasised that any vehicles whose owners had not yet paid the fines for overweight cargo had to do so first in order to have their property returned. He advised that in the future they must strictly adhere to and respect all provisions of the road traffic law to avoid repeating these mistakes.
“I would like to commend the public works ministry and all relevant authorities at all levels for their strict implementation of the transport standards on restricting overweight transport,” Hun Sen said.
Ministry spokesman Pal Chandara said authorities would return the offending vehicles to their owners ahead of schedule as long as the fines were paid.
However, he warned business owners and their truck drivers that the ministry will continue with strict enforcement of these measures going forward and any new offences will again result in vehicle impoundment.
“The ministry has no plans to ease enforcement on the legal limits for overweight vehicles and we will continue to impound them without exception unless decided otherwise [by the prime minister].
“In addition, the ministry will strive to disseminate information more widely about the law so that everyone will learn the rules and follow them,” he said.
Lim Mony, the owner of a cargo truck currently sitting in the ministry impound lot, expressed joy at the news and pledged it would not happen again.
“I’m the truck’s driver and owner. That truck alone is my entire business and livelihood. I will do everything I can to follow the law from now on. Right now I am overjoyed and I thank [Hun Sen] for answering the petition for relief, because it means everything to me,” he said.
Kong Sovann, a public health specialist and director of the International Safety Fund Programme, said the wisdom of the decision depends on the policies pursued going forward once the economic crisis caused by the pandemic is no longer an immediate factor.
However, he understood why the exception was granted and said it made sense to do it now as the one-year anniversary of the stepped-up enforcement of the law approached and the owners still had to pay their fines.
He also cautioned the government to be mindful of the importance of preventing private industry from harming the common good because the roads are common property and need to be protected and respected by everyone.
“The owners should at least sign a letter promising not to repeat the offence, with increased penalties set for any repeat offenders. But I think this exception will probably be a one-time thing. In the future they can’t keep using Covid-19 as an excuse to break the law and nobody can play dumb or pretend shock if their truck is impounded for a second time,” he said.