Crash Victim Wakes Up From Coma

A week after returning to Phnom Penh from his home prov­ince of Takeo, where his family had taken him to die, the victim of a collision turned shooting re­gained consciousness Wednesday for the first time since suffering head wounds on Oct 27.

A medical staff member from the human rights group Licadho said Thursday that Sun Lai, 22, had been able to speak and digest fish porridge. Previously, he had taken his meals through a tube running up his nose.

Asked about the victim’s mental state, the Licadho official said he is “not so clear, but he knows his wife, his father-in-law, his mother-in-law and his sister.”

Those family members stood around Thursday fanning him and massaging his limbs. His ankles and wrists were bound to bed rails to prevent him from trying to walk prematurely, as he had attempted that morning.

“So far he does not appear to remember the accident,” the Licadho official said.

Sun Lai was one of four injured Oct 27 on Sihanouk Boulevard near Olympic Stadium. Three died. Among them was his brother-in-law, Long Mao.

They were buying coconuts off a truck when a Toyota Corona slammed into it. Then three other vehicles pulled up, men retrieved their friend from behind the air bag of his wrecked car and a man threatened bystanders before firing on them with an AK-47.

Police have issued arrest warrants for five suspects they say are the sons of rich and powerful Phnom Penh families. They also have identified the shooter as Nhim Sophea, the nephew of Prime Minister Hun Sen and a historically untouchable police suspect.

Despite several reports from the Phnom Penh Penal Police chief in charge of the investigation that the families of the suspects would pay compensation to victims, Sun Lai’s wife said Thursday she had not heard anything about compensation.

“No police or relatives of the [suspects] have been to the hospital to visit my husband, and he never gets any compensation, not even 100 riel,” said Long Ny, 19.

“The doctor told me my husband is OK right now, but I still worry because my husband earned money to support our family. Our family will face a financial crisis if he does not recover,” she said.

Penal Police Chief Reach Sokhon acknowledged Thursday that he had not visited Sun Lai, but said, “I felt shocked to hear the [suspect’s] father still ignored the victims. It is painful to see powerful persons oppress the powerless and poor.”

Sun Lai’s return to Phnom Penh, where he went into intensive care at Preah Sihanouk Hospital, was sponsored by Licadho and Funcinpec officials. Their charity enabled him to recover this far, through anti-inflammatory and antibiotic medicine that relieved his brain swelling, according to his doctor.

But the doctor, who asked not to be identified, could not give a certain prognosis. Head injuries are unpredictable.

He said that if the improvement continues, he will send Sun Lai to the hospital’s neurological department, where he would be under observation for several months to a year.

The Licadho official said his organization has already spent $2,000 on Sun Lai’s recovery, and he did not know how further treatment would be paid for.


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