Driver of Bus That Killed 19 Goes on Trial in Svay Rieng

The Svay Rieng Provincial Court on Thursday tried the Vietnamese driver of a bus that plowed into a van carrying 38 factory workers in May, killing 18 passengers and the driver.

On its way to Phnom Penh, the tour bus slammed head-on into the overloaded van, which had been transporting workers to factories in Bavet City. Twenty-one people were injured in the crash, one of whom died in the hospital later in the week.

Police at the scene of the crash in Svay Teap district said the bus, operated by 15 SH Transport, had crossed into oncoming traffic while attempting to overtake a car.

The van carrying the workers was completely destroyed. The bus had been carrying six people, none of whom were injured.

Contacted by telephone Thursday, Presiding Judge Sothy Borachhat said the court had heard all evidence in the trial of Vietnamese national Le Van Tung, 43, who is facing charges of unlicensed driving and careless driving resulting in death.

“We completed questioning today for both sides, but we have not yet announced the verdict because we are afraid to confuse the names of the victims and the dead people,” he said. “We need more time to prepare the names before announcing the verdict.”

Witnesses to the crash said that bystanders dragged Mr. Tung from the bus and beat him until police arrived and took him into custody. Shortly after the crash, employees of 15 SH arrived at the scene and attempted to remove logos from the bus but were quickly apprehended by police.

Touch Savuth, the father of Chut Bopha, 23, who died in the crash, said on Thursday that Mr. Tung had attempted to shift blame to the van driver in court Thursday.

“He accused the garment workers’ driver of driving on the wrong side of the road and hitting the bus,” he said, adding that the victims and families had requested compensation of $20,000 for each person who died and $10,000 for those who were injured.

Reached by telephone, Duong Ratha, the owner of 15 SH, said his insurance company was responsible for organizing compensation.

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