Cambodian-American lawyer David Chanaiwa has been detained in PJ Prison awaiting trial after being charged by Phnom Penh Municipal Court with destruction of public property for driving his vehicle across Hun Sen Park.
The 33-year-old lawyer, who has cut a reputation as a firebrand attorney in recent years, was accused Tuesday of driving his Hummer across the park around 2 am Saturday, damaging grass and a flower bed. His vehicle is the civilian-use model of the military Humvee, which has become the car of choice for Cambodia’s young male elite.
“The court’s prosecutor [Uk Savuth] decided to charge him with destroying public property in accordance with Article 52 [of the Untac Law]. He could face between one and three years in prison, and can also be fined depending on the scale of the damage,” court clerk Prak Savuth said Wednesday.
But before being jailed on Tuesday afternoon, Chanaiwa was again in the premier’s park at the wheel of his sturdy Hummer, re-enacting his shortcut across the lawn, said Phnom Penh serious crime chief Chuon Narin.
The re-enactment drew a large crowd of gawkers who vented their frustration over the antics of Cambodia’s rich and powerful.
“If [Chanaiwa] is not punished, other children of rich families and powerful officials will continue to race their vehicle for fun, and ordinary drivers and passengers will suffer,” motorcycle-taxi driver Duong Sopheak, 31, said after the reenactment.
Sok Sambath, a fruit vendor on the riverfront, said he believed that Chanaiwa’s Hummer was not the only vehicle involved in the off-road rally.
“I think there should be more suspects linked to the damage of Hun Sen Park because I heard there were around 10 people in the group and a few luxury vehicles,” he said.
“[The rich] look down on us like we are animals, and they drive their vehicles to injure people and destroy public property for fun,” Sok Sambath said.