CPP Youth Group, Road Safety NGO Launch Helmet Campaign

A CPP-aligned youth group and a regional road-safety NGO on Tuesday launched a $1.2 million, two-year pilot program to educate Cambodians about the importance of wearing helmets while driving or riding as passengers on motorbikes.

The pilot program in Phnom Penh and the neighboring provinces of Kandal and Kompong Speu will be carried out jointly by the Asia Injury Prevention Foundation (AIP) and the Union of Youth Federations of Cambodia (UYFC), an organization headed by Hun Many, the son of Prime Minister Hun Sen.

A man drives a motorbike without a helmet on a busy street in Phnom Penh on Tuesday. (Matt Walker)
A man drives a motorbike without a helmet on a busy street in Phnom Penh on Tuesday. (Matt Walker)

At a ceremony to launch the campaign at the Royal University of Phnom Penh, AIP founder and president Greig Craft stressed the importance of wearing helmets while navigating the country’s dangerous roads, saying that 2,000 people were killed on the roads each year, “most of them from not wearing helmets.”

“There are 20 times more deaths from road accidents than [from] land mines, malaria and dengue fever combined,” Mr. Craft said.

Speaking on the sidelines of the event, Mr. Craft said his organization decided to partner with Mr. Many’s because young Cambodians are less averse to adapting their behavior than their older counterparts, and are themselves “change agents.”

“Youth are willing to adapt to new changes and adapt to new laws,” he said.

Chanpha Khun, a communications officer for AIP in Cambodia, said the first phase of the program, which is being partially funded by USAID, would be a door-to-door effort to convince the country’s many road users to wear helmets.

“AIP will train the youth volunteers [UYFC] how to communicate to the community. We will provide the training material, leaflet, flyer, poster,” she said.

Ms. Khun said UYFC members would also work with traffic police at the district level to brainstorm other ways of persuading people to wear helmets.

In April, she added, AIP would roll out a radio, television and billboard campaign.

After evaluating the results of the pilot program in two years’ time, Mr. Khun said, AIP would decide which parts of the scheme to move forward with on a national scale.

Last month, King Norodom Sihamoni signed off on a new law requiring that motorbike passengers over the age of 3 wear helmets, though traffic police have yet to begin enforcing it.

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