Following Controversy, Tourism Official Resigns

Sam Monika, a secretary of state at the Ministry of Tourism who was criticized on social media in recent weeks for demanding hefty compensation for seemingly minor injuries she sustained during a traffic accident, resigned from her position last week, according to a royal decree.

Contacted Sunday, Ms. Monika said she was not pressured into stepping down, and continued to defend her decision to demand $4,000 in compensation for what she said were injuries to her head, chest and shoulders when a taxi she was traveling in veered off the road and into a ditch in Ratanakkiri province on October 19.

“I voluntarily resigned from my position and nobody forced me out,” she said.

After the accident, Ms. Monika demanded $1,000 in compensation each for herself and three other government officials who were also in the car, which was owned by Kim Piseth.

With Mr. Piseth unable to come up with the money, claiming he had already pawned his home to purchase the vehicle, Pheng Vannak, a police officer, took to Facebook to encourage his contacts to donate money to help the taxi owner pay Ms. Monika.

Information Minister Khieu Kanharith was among some 40 people who heeded the call, and Mr. Vannak successfully raised the funds. Upon receiving the compensation earlier this month, Ms. Monika said she would donate the money to the Cambodian Red Cross. However, the group rejected her pledge, without explanation, in an ensuing statement.

Facebook users also berated Ms. Monika for demanding what they said was an unrealistic sum from a relatively poor taxi owner —a reaction that she said Sunday had done lasting damage to her reputation.

“It is not fair. I am the victim but they cursed me,” she said, adding that she had lost consciousness for about 30 minutes following the accident. “If the car had burst into flames or gone underwater, I would have died, because I was trapped inside the car.”

Mr. Piseth declined to discuss the case Sunday.

“All the problems have been solved, so I don’t have any more comments on this case,” he said.

sony@cambodiadaily.com

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