A Phnom Phnom traffic police officer struck a fleeing motorist on the head with a baton Thursday, causing the vehicle to overturn and a passenger to strike her head against the ground, witnesses and family members said.
Although she was wearing a helmet, 50-year-old Choun Daravann was knocked unconscious and taken to Calmette Hospital for tests. She soon regained consciousness and was released when doctors did not find any serious injuries, her husband, Khim Sovatha, said.
The woman’s son, 20-year-old Khim Sopanharith, was driving the motorcycle at the time.
Witness Chum Saovassa said police tried to stop the motorcycle because it did not have rearview mirrors; the accident happened when the driver tried to escape from police.
Mr Chum Saovassa said he understood why the driver tried to escape, because he often sees traffic police asking for more than the legally mandated fines for violations. “They are using the traffic law to do business,” he said.
“If my son and wife don’t obey traffic law, police can fine them… but they shouldn’t beat my son,” the young man’s father, Khim Sovatha said, adding that he intends to lodge a complaint.
According to Cambodia’s 2007 Traffic Law, anyone driving an improperly equipped motorcycle can be fined about $1.
Phnom Penh municipal traffic police chief Tin Prasoer acknowledged that policemen do not always follow the law, but asked for the public’s understanding.
“Police are standing on the road, in the hot sun, with the smell of exhaust smoke. How do they feel when they see lawbreakers in front of their eyes?” he asked.
Sann Socheata, road safety manager for Handicap International, said police need more training in conducting traffic stops. “If they had the proper skills, there would not be accidents,” she said.
Him Yan, deputy municipal traffic police chief, said that people often try to dodge his officers, but he encouraged people who witness police misconduct to write letters of complaint and drop them in the comment boxes provided at all police stations.
(Additional reporting by Bethany Lindsay)