Motorbike drivers whose rides are 125cc or less will no longer need a licence, Prime Minister Hun Sen announced yesterday evening, in a decision that will mean the majority of Cambodian drivers will be exempt from taking a driving test.
In what he called a January 7 “gift for the people”, the premier ordered government officials to amend the Traffic Law in response to public concern and after meetings with Interior Minister Sar Kheng, and the ministers of finance and transport.
In a Facebook post at 7pm, the Hun Sen said the government would “eliminate driving licence A1”.
“[This] means that motorbike drivers [whose bike] has a power of 125cc or less are not required to have a driver’s licence,” the premier wrote.
He tasked Sar Kheng with the “urgent task of amending the related provision in the law”.
The amendment, he wrote, should be given to the Council of Ministers and parliament to “approve urgently”.
“It is an urgent [action] of the government to solve requests of the people,” he posted.
“The Ministry of Interior and Ministry of Public Works and Transport must increase their campaigns to disseminate and teach widely about the traffic law . . . especially through radio, television and pictorial banners in public to increase awareness,” he added.
The decision, branded problematic by a road safety campaigner, comes a day after Hun Sen called for driving tests for motorcycle licences to be scrapped, saying riding a two-wheeler was “not very complicated”.
During that speech on Tuesday in Phnom Penh, the premier also said motorcycle licence costs would drop from about $15 to about $6, an announcement flagged less than a week ago, when the premier noted social media users’ discontent with the cost of the licensing process, which has long been mired in accusations of corruption.
This all comes amid public concerns and griping over the enforcement of the new Traffic Law this year after a year-long grace period.
The new legislation brings five-fold increases in fines across the board, including for unlicensed driving.
According to the premier, there are 2.7 million motorbikes in the Kingdom but only 157,351 drivers had a permit.
Founder of the Road Safety Institute Ear Chariya said he didn’t support the move, but called for a boost in road safety education to compensate if it went ahead, including a program targeting high school students.
“Driving without a licence will cause problems because road users won’t have passed a test to learn the Traffic Law,” Chariya said.
“Less than 30 per cent of drivers know the law, and traffic accidents are caused a lot by motorbikes, and they result in deaths.”
Responding to Hun Sen’s comments about scrapping tests for motorcycle drivers, Preap Chanvibol, director of land transportation at the Transport Ministry, said that he supported the premier, but conceded such a move could dent awareness of road rules.
“When we go to learn and take the test, we know the law, but if we don’t take the test, there will be some drivers with driver’s licences who know the law and some who don’t.”
General Run Rathveasna, director of the public order department at the Interior Ministry, noted that 16 was still the minimum age for driving a motorbike.
In a statement yesterday, rights group Adhoc said tests should be mandatory.
“It’s meaningless to issue a license [without a test],” the statement reads.