Officer Strikes Fleeing Motorist, Causing Injury

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)



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