Prime Minister Hun Sen on Monday urged Cambodians to keep safe as they celebrate Khmer New Year this weekend and instructed law enforcement officers to be vigilant during a period renowned for causing an annual spike in traffic accidents.
Speaking at a graduation ceremony on Koh Pich island in Phnom Penh for almost 3,500 students from Vanda Institute of Accounting, Mr. Hun Sen said authorities around the country must do everything they can to protect citizens during the holiday period, when residents of Phnom Penh flock home to their families in the provinces.
“First of all, I appeal to armed forces and local authorities everywhere [in Cambodia] to protect people’s safety because most people leave Phnom Penh to return to the city,” he said.
“But the second appeal is for people to do their utmost to avoid traffic accidents when they are leaving for home and returning because if people crash they will end up staying at the hospital instead. If we respect the traffic laws, we will reduce accidents.”
He also warned that traditional mischievous behavior by youths—such as throwing bags of water and powder at passing vehicles and passersby—can also cause accidents or even be used as a cover for attempted robberies.
General Khieu Sopheak, spokesman for the Interior Ministry, said about 50,000 police officials would be deployed across the country to oversee the New Year period.
“We will deploy police at pagodas, rural areas and public places until Khmer New Year is over,” he said, adding that police will also be monitoring roads and will penalize drivers who are driving while drunk or breaking speed limits—especially as vehicles are often crammed dangerously full for the journey home.
Last year, there were 148 reported traffic accidents nationwide during the Khmer New Year holiday resulting in 67 deaths, an increase from 48 fatalities in 2012.
© 2014, The Cambodia Daily. All rights reserved No part of this article may be reproduced in print, electronically, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed without written permission.