A top Tourism Ministry official has been summoned for questioning at the Kandal Provincial Court over his involvement in a fatal traffic accident in April, which police have attempted to blame on a mystery truck that witnesses say didn’t exist.
Nuon Someth, an undersecretary of state at the ministry and former deputy governor of Phnom Penh, was arrested by police in Kandal’s Kien Svay district on April 12 after his Toyota Land Cruiser veered into the oncoming lane on National Road 1 and hit a motorbike carrying Mith Sothea, 38, and his wife, Khorn Yeth, 32.
Mith Sothea died at the scene; his wife succumbed to her injuries at Phnom Penh’s Calmette Hospital two weeks later.
Police investigators, however, said witnesses saw a truck clip the left side of Mr. Someth’s SUV, causing him to lose control of his vehicle and hit the couple. They freed Mr. Someth the next day on the orders of the provincial court’s chief prosecutor, Lim Sokuntha, who cited the police account and the ministry official’s own wishes as reasons for the release.
“I allowed him to go home because he asked,” Mr. Sokuntha said at the time.
Multiple witnesses interviewed by The Cambodia Daily said there was no truck and that the crash involved only the official’s car and the couple’s motorbike. Tat Saing, the owner of a motorbike repair shop located a few meters from the site of the crash, was identified by police as one of the witnesses who saw a truck hit Mr. Someth’s car, but he told reporters he did not see the accident with his own eyes and had heard only a single collision.
On Friday, deputy provincial prosecutor Sam Rithyveasna said he had summoned Mr. Someth, Mr. Saing and Mith Sothea’s nephew Sarom Sokha to appear before the court for questioning on June 15 but declined to say what he would ask the men.
“I don’t want to talk about this case,” he said.
Neither Mr. Someth nor his assistant, Neang Sopheaktra, could not be reached on Friday. Mr. Sokuntha, the chief prosecutor who ordered Mr. Someth’s release, was also unavailable for comment.
Mr. Saing said he had not yet received the summons. “If I am free, I will go to answer questions, but if I am busy, I will not go,” he said.
“I already told police that I did not see a truck hit [Mr. Someth’s] car,” he added.
Mr. Sokha—whose family withdrew a complaint against Mr. Someth after he offered them $5,500 for their loss—said he had received the summons and would appear as requested.
“The case is up to the court because we received compensation and promised not to file a complaint against him,” he said.