A senior forestry official is in custody in Siem Reap province for killing a village security guard with his Lexus SUV while driving drunk on Sunday night, dragging the victim’s body beneath his car before leading police on a high-speed chase, officials said on Monday.
Yan Sideth, 48, chief of the Forestry Administration’s Svay Loeu division, was “extremely drunk” when he rear-ended Chan Reaksmey, 41, with his car on National Road 6 in Prasat Bakorng district at about 11 p.m. on Sunday, said deputy district police chief Pos Chantha.
The security guard, who was patrolling the area on his motorbike, was dragged beneath Mr. Sideth’s vehicle and died at the scene, Mr. Chantha said.
“The suspect was extremely drunk and speeding when his vehicle hit the victim from behind, and he dragged the victim’s body and his motorbike along the road for about 15 meters before the body flew out from beneath the vehicle,” he said. “When the body of the victim flew out, the suspect still did not slow down…. Instead, he continued speeding and dragged the motorbike under his vehicle for another 10 meters.”
Called to the scene by witnesses, district police quickly gave chase, Mr. Chantha said.
“Even with police chasing him, he continued speeding for about 13 km before police caught up and arrested him” about 10 minutes later, he said. “At the district police station last night, he was too drunk to answer any questions and we decided to send him to the provincial traffic police office.”
Chim Sovann, chief of the provincial police’s traffic bureau, said he had requested the transfer for fear that an angry mob might surround the smaller district station.
“We will send him to the provincial court tomorrow to be charged,” he said, adding that he would suggest charges of speeding, drunk driving, leaving the scene of an accident and reckless driving resulting in death. Combined, the last two crimes, which supersede the others, are punishable by two to five years in prison.
Tea Kimsuth, director of the Forestry Administration’s Siem Reap cantonment, which oversees the Svay Loeu division, said Mr. Sideth was on a work-related “mission” when the accident occurred and said the official was not to blame.
Chan Reaksmey, he said, had been at fault for driving “in front of his car. How can he hit the brakes while he is speeding?”
“I am not sure if he was drunk, but I am sure that area is a danger zone,” he said, adding that ghosts were rumored to populate the area.
“I’ve heard taxi drivers say that if you pass that area at night, you can see a mother holding her baby.”
Mr. Sideth is only the latest government official to be involved in a fatal traffic accident, although prosecutions in such cases are rare.
In April, Nuon Someth, an undersecretary of state at the Tourism Ministry and former deputy governor of Phnom Penh, hit and killed a couple on a motorbike with his Toyota Land Cruiser in Kandal province, but was released early the next day. He remains free and the status of an investigation into the accident is unclear.
And in 2013, senior CPP lawmaker Cheam Yeap avoided charges after his driver killed a young married couple before fleeing the scene.