A YouTube video clip of a government official running over a military police officer’s motorcycle after being stopped for driving his SUV the wrong way down Phnom Penh’s Monivong Boulevard has been watched nearly 40,000 times since being posted online after the incident on Thursday.
Given the country’s very low Internet-penetration rate, the 39,000 views generated by the video of Sok Than, 68, fleeing toward Olympic Stadium with the motorcycle jammed under his Toyota Land Cruiser and a police officer firing at his tires may qualify it as the country’s first viral hit.
Despite his newfound stardom, Mr Than has retained his position as the deputy director general of the department of National Assembly-Senate Relations at the Ministry of National Assembly-Senate Relations and Inspection. He was released from police custody after being briefly detained and has agreed to pay $150 in damages to the police officer involved, police officials said yesterday.
“In the beginning, we had thought of sending him to the court, but we found out that he is mentally ill so we will not,” said deputy traffic police bureau chief Pen Khun. “If we took him to court, both the police and the court would look as silly as him.”
According to Mr Khun, Mr Than’s relatives said he has been behaving erratically since undergoing eye surgery a few months ago. Mr Than could not be reached for comment.
Mr Khun laughed at the popularity of the video, saying “it seems like 20,000 people are crazy about watching this,” and added that Mr Than drove all the way to Olympic Stadium with the motorcycle under his car, stopping only when police blocked by two police trucks.
Ly Kimsov, director of the personnel and inspection department at the Ministry of National Assembly-Senate Relations, said yesterday that Mr Than no longer performs official duties but still receives a government salary.
“He has worked at the government for 20 years,” said Mr Kimsov. “His former staff now pities him because he used to be a good man and has become like this.”
Ministry staff close to Mr Than pleaded with police to release Mr Than after he was temporarily detained on Thursday, Mr Kimsov said.
Sok Sam Oeun, executive director of the legal NGO Cambodian Defenders Project, said yesterday that he had seen the video on Facebook and that it seemed to show Mr Than’s indifference toward law enforcement.
“Powerful people sometimes feel that they can violate the law,” said Mr Sam Oeun, adding that police officers are often scared to file complaints against the rich or well connected.