Police Chief Criticizes Driving Acquittals

The Phnom Penh Municipal Police chief has criticized the acquittal of defendants in 23 cases where drivers caused deaths or serious injuries during crashes in the capital last year, and called for legislation changes to prevent dangerous drivers walking free from court.

In a post to the National Police website Friday, Chuon Sovann hit out at the municipal court’s decisions in the 23 cases and called for the verdicts to be reconsidered in favor of possible custodial or suspended sentences. 

“The court has improperly released people involved in 23 cases who were involved in traffic offenses in 2014,” the post quoted Mr. So­vann as saying during a Thursday meeting of municipal officials at Phnom Penh City Hall.

“We request that these cases go to trial and that the perpetrators are placed in prison or, for example, get given a six-month suspended sentence,” he said.

Mr. Sovann also voiced his general frustration at the attitude of some drivers toward road safety and said he hoped that tough implementation of a new traffic law, which was signed off by King No­ro­dom Si­ha­moni earlier this month, would act as a deterrent to potential drunk drivers.

“Many [drivers] have no respect for the traffic law, they drive under the influence and inflict danger upon the public…they often flee the scene,” Mr. Sovann was quoted as saying.

“If there is no strengthening of the law, offenders will still be free from the law and it will mean they continue to commit the same crimes.”

Am Sam Ath, technical adviser at rights group Licadho, said that when powerful and well-connected in­dividuals cause traffic accidents they are disproportionally protected by the judicial system.

“We never see people of high rank and power brought to court when people die or get injured in accidents, but common people are always placed in prison when they cause accidents,” said Mr. Sam Ath.

“There is no equality in implementing the law and the judicial system will continue to be seriously unjust if it continues in this way.”

Phnom Penh Municipal Court director Ang Mealaktei declined to comment.

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