Police Chief’s Elevator Death Case Not Sent to Court

The official in charge of the investigation into Poipet City military police commander Ham Muth’s death at a Phnom Penh hotel earlier this month said on Thursday that the case file has not in fact been transferred to court as a manslaughter case.

Ham Muth, who was 39, fell four floors to his death in an empty elevator shaft at the Midland Hotel, which is owned by Phnom Penh deputy governor Chreang Sophan, after returning to his room early on July 8 following a night out. 

The Midland Hotel in Phnom Penh's Tuol Kok district yesterday. Poipet City military police commander Ham Muth fell to his death there early this month after stumbling into an unfinished elevator shaft. (Siv Channa/The Cambodia Daily)
The Midland Hotel in Phnom Penh’s Tuol Kok district yesterday. Poipet City military police commander Ham Muth fell to his death there early this month after stumbling into an unfinished elevator shaft. (Siv Channa/The Cambodia Daily)

Phnom Penh deputy military police commander Pou Davy said the following day that investigations into the death were complete and the case sent to court. He said that Mr. Sophan stood accused of manslaughter under Article 207 of the criminal code due to his failure to fence off the empty elevator shaft at his hotel.

But Lieutenant Colonel Phan Daravuth, the deputy chief of the municipal military police’s justice department, on Thursday denied those claims.

“This case is in my hands and we have not sent it to the court yet because we are continuing the investigation,” he said.

“We have had no free time to meet the hotel owner to fix the compensation for the victim’s family because we have been busy.”

Lt. Col. Daravuth said that negotiations between Mr. Sophan and Ham Muth’s family were ongoing.

Phnom Penh Municipal Court clerk Heng Virak, who is in charge of penal cases, said he had not received the file on the death of Ham Muth from the military police.

Colonel Davy on Thursday declined to comment. He said he was in a meeting and then did not pick up his telephone again.

At the hotel, Kuy Lean, a member of the reception staff, said that the entrance to the elevator shaft had been closed off with wood but said reporters could only view it after 10 p.m.

Reached by telephone, Mr. Sophan, the hotel owner, simply answered “I don’t know” to a range of questions, including a query about the progress of negotiations with the victim’s family.

(Additional reporting by Alex Willemyns)

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