Four traffic police officers have been suspended for three months after a motorist posted a video showing she had driven through a green light despite being stopped and fined for purportedly ignoring a red, as social media users piled on with accusations of improper enforcement.
The fine was handed out last Friday morning when a motorist driving a silver Isuzu SUV on Mao Tse Toung Blvd. crossed an intersection in Tonle Bassac commune. Traffic police stopped her for allegedly ignoring the traffic light, according to security footage she later uploaded from her car.
“The light is green. So, am I supposed to stop?” the driver says in the video, which she posted to Facebook on Saturday. “A policeman then comes out from hiding [behind] a tree along the road, and I think they will stop the cars behind me. But, unexpectedly, he stops my car.”
The motorist says police accused her of aggressively ignoring a red light and fined her $35. “I know I did not violate the traffic laws. But I was busy at that time and was in a rush to go to work, so I gave the police some money and asked to leave.”
The Phnom Penh Municipal Police said on Tuesday that one of the officers, Prum Chandara, had then messaged the driver on Facebook offering to return her money if she would delete the video.
The motorist rejected the offer, and four traffic policemen had now been suspended for three months, municipal police wrote in a Facebook post.
The officers had admitted to fining the driver improperly without providing receipts, it said.
“The department is happy to receive any complaints from people in case there are officers who act differently from the law,” municipal police said.
More than 1,600 comments were left with the municipal police Facebook post, many of them criticizing the inappropriate behavior of Phnom Penh traffic police officers.
“How about those who have not equipped security cameras on their vehicles? Would they become the victim of this unjust act?” wrote one Facebook user. Others complained of officers who “shout loudly” at motorists, and of pressure while driving because officers stop and fine them without giving legitimate reasons.
Kong Ratanak, a former director of the Institute for Road Safety, said bribery and improper fines remained an important problem with Cambodia’s traffic law enforcement.
Drivers can still become victims of this injustice if they are not brave enough to speak up about what happens, Ratanak said.
“Sometimes they find it hard to do so when they do not have the evidence, so they cannot argue with those unprofessional police officers,” he said.
“I believe there are not only these four police officers, but there are more who have not done their job professionally and ethically. So I think the Phnom Penh Municipal Police should continue to observe what that police are doing.”
Phnom Penh police chief Sar Thet said he was busy and referred questions to the force’s spokesperson, who didn’t respond to questions.
Thet has previously called for traffic police to stop collecting bribes from motorists — a long-standing problem in the country. In 2015, a new law allowed traffic police officers to keep 70% of fines they hand out in an attempt to increase enforcement.