Road traffic accidents remain a major concern for the government, a Ministry of Interior official said, noting that between December 10 and 22, a total of 149 traffic accidents resulted in 69 deaths and 248 injuries nationwide.

Ministry spokesman Touch Sokhak said motorcyclists made up the majority of the victims. Sokhak explained that the ongoing casualties are the reason that Minister of Interior Sar Sokha has made a reduction in the road toll one of the ministry’s six priorities under the seventh-mandate government. 

“The number of deaths and injuries continue to increase from day to day. Among the leading causes are speeding, drunk driving, negligence and a lack of respect for fellow road users. In addition, there is a lack of understanding and respect for traffic laws. This requires the joint participation of all stake holders to address,” he said.

Kim Pagna, country director of the Asia Injury Prevention (AIP) Foundation, described the recent figures as far too high. Since receiving reports of the accident rates, he has raised several concerns.

“The number of recorded accidents are lower than in previous years, so we are seeing a decrease. The important thing to do now is to tighten law enforcement measures even further. The law should be implemented as strictly and broadly as possible, throughout the country, and at both day and night,” he said.

He also called for the implementation of the law to be transparent and fair, and remarked that police officers should not pocket fines without offering receipts.

On December 21, Prime Minister Hun Manet personally ordered the arrest of the driver responsible for an accident which caused the death of a motorcyclist in Phnom Penh, instructing the police to bring the driver before the courts in handcuffs if necessary.

“If anybody asks, tell them that the prime minister has issued this policy. If there is a problem taking an offender into custody, please inform me. I will take action against anyone who attempts to prevent police officers from doing their duty,” he said.

During the launch of the National Plan for the Decade of Action for Road Safety 2021-2030 at the end of November, interior minister Sokha, who serves as chairman of the National Road Safety Committee (NRSC), issued guidelines that aim to increase the enforcement of traffic laws throughout the Kingdom. He noted that the authorities must impose severe penalties on drunk drivers, and those who cause traffic accidents, deaths or injuries.

He urged officials to pay close attention to motorcyclists, and ordered increased educational measures.

“We are aware that the highest accident rates appear to be from motorcycle riders and drunk drivers, so we need to impose severe punishments on anyone who causes traffic accidents which lead to injuries and deaths,” he said.

According to the decade-long action plan, the government plans to reduce the number of deaths and injuries caused by traffic accidents by 50 per cent by 2030. This may prove challenging, as current rates remain alarmingly high.