A man attempting to flee a collision mowed down a line of motorbikes on a busy Phnom Penh street on Monday, killing at least three people and injuring several more, witnesses and police said.
After bystanders dragged him from his car and beat him bloody, he was rushed to a hospital where he was recovering.
According to numerous witnesses at the scene, the motorist came speeding down Monivong Boulevard driving in the wrong lane at about 6 p.m. after crashing into a vehicle near Bokor gas station, smashing into everything in his way and sending bodies flying before grinding to a halt.
An angry mob then set upon the driver, and likely would have beaten him to death were it not for the intervention of police, witnesses said. Hundreds had congregated around the three bodies and mangled motorbikes on the road within an hour of the incident.
Noeun Samoun, who works as a mechanic in a Honda garage on Monivong, said that he came rushing out of the building after hearing the collisions on the opposite side of the road.
“I saw people flying from the other direction,” he said. “It sounded like bombs exploding, one after another.”
Meas Channa also came rushing from her house upon hearing the commotion, and witnessed the mob set upon the driver.
“I feel shocked and don’t feel very well. I’ve seen traffic accidents before, but I’ve never seen anything like this,” she said.
Standing in the spot where the driver was beaten, student Kheng Pheara said he believed the mob planned to kill the man.
“I saw a lot of people beating the driver. People were shouting, ‘Beat him to death!’ because he killed so many people…but they were pushed back by the police,” he said.
“They beat him until he lost consciousness and when he started to come around they started beating him again,” he said.
A live stream on the Facebook page of the Fresh News website corroborated the reports, showing police preventing dozens of angry men from setting upon the driver, who appears to be floating in and out of consciousness with substantial wounds to his head and face. At one point, a large slab of concrete hits the man on his side, as another smashes his vehicle.
Run Rothveasna, director of the Interior Ministry’s public order department, confirmed that three people—two women and a man—were killed during the driving spree, adding that six or seven others had been rushed to the Khmer-Soviet and Calmette hospitals.
He identified the driver as Nai Bunthorn, a resident of Meanchey district.
“Until now, we haven’t received any information about whether he was drunk or not,” Mr. Rothveasna said. “He was hit and kicked by people, so he became unconscious. We haven’t questioned him yet.”
Sourn Samith, chief of the emergency unit at the Khmer-Soviet Hospital, confirmed it had received five injured people, and had rushed one in critical condition to Calmette Hospital.
“We are rescuing them,” he said.
A worker at Calmette Hospital declined to comment on how many victims had been admitted.
Chan Dara, who was traveling along the street when the incident happened, said the driver deserved to be beaten to death.
“It is the right thing,” he said. “In my opinion, he should not be given a life because he killed so many people.”
(Additional reporting by Phan Soumy)