Officials from a human rights group said 43 victims of a car crash involving a National Election Committee vehicle have accused police officers in Kompong Thom province of demanding kickbacks in exchange for filing compensation reports.
Investigators for the nongovernmental organization Adhoc said Thursday that more than 60 families were awarded compensation from the NEC after its vehicle slammed into a crowd on Aug 26, killing 15 and injuring 39.
But, the investigators say, the claimants told them the police in charge of filing reports to the NEC ordered 43 of them to pay upwards of $12.50 to submit the reports. Two police named in the complaints—Santuk District Deputy Police Chief Chan Youen and his assistant Siv Sovanna—allegedly went door to door asking victims for bribes and “threatened that if the victim did not give them money, the police would not report their cases to the NEC,” an investigator said.
The two officers were accused of extorting a total of $150 from the victims, the investigator said.
“We believe this is wrong because the victims lost their livelihood and in some cases lost a son or a daughter, so most of the families do not have enough money for their livelihood,” the investigator said.
Chan Youen and Siv Sovanna could not be reached for comment on Thursday.
Although Kompong Thom Deputy Police Chief Pen Chan Sokrin said he was aware of the allegations, he said the case did not look too serious because the villagers “volunteered” to give the officers money for helping them win compensation.
“This is a small thing that I can solve easily if I receive a complaint from these people,” Pen Chan Sokrin said.
“But I do not understand why they sent it to the human rights workers instead. I have heard of this case, but there is not as much money as is being said,” Pen Chan Sokrin said.
“The district officers only asked for about 10,000 riel [$2.50] from some of the families that received up to 2 million riel [$500] from the NEC,” he said.
Pen Chan Sokrin said he would take the two policeman to court or punish them if it is proven that they took more than $2.50.
In September, NEC officials agreed to pay families of the dead $800, as well as ongoing medical care for the injured. Some of the victims were paid about $13.
Oung Kheng, an NEC official, said he had not heard of the bribery allegations, but denounced anyone who would try to take advantage of the crash victims. He also expressed his regret over the accident.
“I am very disappointed with myself over the incident. The money is very small, and it would not compensate the price of one’s life,” he said.
Som Sophat, second deputy governor of Kompong Thom, said he had not heard about the alleged bribery either, but will now investigate the case.
Adhoc today will send a report detailing the 43 complaints to Kompong Thom provincial authorities, the Ministry of Interior and the NEC.
The accident occurred when four NEC workers were traveling in a Toyota Landcruiser from Banteay Meanchey to Phnom Penh on Aug 26. The vehicle, after hitting a child who ran into the road, veered into a roadside petrol stand. Burning gasoline flew in several directions, injuring and killing bystanders.