Phnom Penh Post reports that from January next year traffic fines are to increase five-fold and traffic police will keep 70% of what they collect. Some great discussion of this on Khmer 440, although nobody seems to pick up the fact that the cops are already allowed to keep 50%. Some points made there are worth recording:
- This policy is a result of the inability of the government to pay decent salaries, which is in turn a result of its inability to collect taxes.
- There’s a danger of cops imposing illegal fines. Dash cams would be a great idea. (Actually I’m not sure – whenever I’ve been stopped for jumping a red light – which seems to be my only sin – it’s been a fair cop).
- Somebody asks if there’s going to be a system for tracking number plates so that scofflaws who accelerate away can be traced. I half-recall reading something about traffic cameras being introduced in Phnom Penh, so perhaps it’s already under way.
- “Every copshop funnels a lot of cash up the chain to the head guy, who then channels part of that directly to CPP.” Very true. And I’d just add that after every Pchum Ben festival, when senior cops have to sponsor events at their home-town monasteries, there’s an outbreak of fine-collecting in Phnom Penh.
- “All pyramid schemes eventually collapse. How long before the Cambodian pyramid topples?”
And what about seeing this from the other side? Back in 2011 the Post ran a story with some interviews with traffic cops. I almost feel sorry for them. For more read here.
STANDING in the shade along a busy intersection in Phnom Penh, a traffic police officer takes a moment to answer his mobile phone amid the sounds of horn blasts and chatter from his Motorola hand-held radio. On the other end of the line his children eagerly await his voice.
“My family worries about my daily activities, especially because they know I stand in the middle of the street and can get hit,” the officer explains, adding that his kids typically phone twice a day. He cites three police officers from his department who have broken their legs or had their toes crushed after being struck by vehicles, highlighting the inherent danger of enforcing traffic laws in the city. He says the job is becoming more difficult because of the increasing volume of traffic on the streets which, according to The Ministry of Public Works and Transport, grows each year by upwards of 20 percent.
“Some drivers don’t respect the traffic laws. They don’t stop or try to obey checkpoints, particularly one-way roads where people go against the flow. Some drivers hurt us but I try to tell my family not to worry about me,” he says. “If I tell my wife it is a dangerous or risky job she’ll only worry more.”
This well demonstrates the fact that it’s not the individuals themselves, who are corrupt. But rather the system they work inside. It exists in all of the government systems from what I can tell. A very difficult situation to turn around. I almost hope that the Cambodian Pyramid Scheme doesn’t fall down because what would it do to the already-vulnerable population? Who are vulnerable because of said Pyramid Scheme, but could be even more vulnerable if it all topples?
Oddly enough I’m not terribly bothered by the traffic police keeping a percentage of fines – it isn’t kept by the individual police squad but goes into a sort of general fund to purchase things they need, plus some to supplement salaries. The “judicial” police – the ones who are supposed to solve crimes – are far more venal.