Drunk Student Crashes SUV Into US Ambassador’s Compound

A university student was questioned at the Phnom Penh Municipal Court on Wednesday after carrying out a drunken series of hit-and-runs on Tuesday evening that started near Boeng Keng Kang market and ended with a crash into the wall surrounding the U.S. ambassador’s mansion, police said.

Tann Sovannara, 21, a fourth-year student at Pannasastra University, was arrested outside Ambassador William Todd’s residence on Norodom Boulevard shortly after 8:30 p.m. following a spate of collisions that began when he crashed his Lexus SUV into another car on a street south of Boeng Keng Kang market, said Tin Vansy, a municipal traffic police officer.

Workers repair the wall surrounding U.S. Ambassador William Todd's residence on Norodom Boulevard in Phnom Penh on Wednesday morning. (Ben Woods/The Cambodia Daily)
Workers repair the wall surrounding U.S. Ambassador William Todd’s residence on Norodom Boulevard in Phnom Penh on Wednesday morning. (Ben Woods/The Cambodia Daily)

Mr. Vansy said Mr. Sovannara then headed east to Norodom Boulevard, and onto Sothearos Boulevard, plowing into a motorbike near Aeon Mall.

“The driver was driving near the Chamkar Mon traffic light [at the intersection of Norodom and Sothearos] and then he hit a motorbike as he was trying to escape… and there were two injuries,” Mr. Vansy said.

Mr. Vansy said that after each collision, Mr. Sovannara refused to stop—as required by law—continuing north along Sothearos Boulevard toward the Royal Palace.

Chaktomuk commune police chief Chuon Vichet said he was patrolling Sothearos at the time.

“At the time, our police were patrolling near Wat Botum park, and then we saw a crowd of people on the street, and the car trying to escape from them, so we knew that it was an accident…and an attempt to flee,” he said.

Mr. Vichet said Mr. Sovannara was being pursued by at least 15 moto-taxi drivers as he continued to drunkenly crash into other vehicles, turning left onto Street 240 back toward Norodom, where he again turned left and slammed into the outer wall of the U.S. ambassador’s house.

“When the suspect was driving on Norodom, I saw that he turned to crash into the wall,” he said. “I think that maybe before he crashed, he felt sleepy.”

Mr. Vansy, the traffic police officer, said Mr. Sovannara was questioned at the Phnom Penh Municipal Court throughout the day Wednesday before being returned to police custody last night to await further questioning at the court today.

U.S. Embassy spokesman Jay Raman said Mr. Todd and other embassy officials were not injured in the crash, but declined to comment on whether the accident had compromised the security of the U.S. diplomatic mission.

“While there was some damage to the outer wall, Ambassador Todd and other mission personnel were not injured,” Mr. Raman said in an email. “As a matter of policy, we do not comment on security matters.”

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Correction: A previous version of this story mistakenly identified Tin Vansy as a deputy municipal traffic police chief.

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