Police Commander’s Death Settled Out of Court

Phnom Penh Deputy Governor Chreang Sophanna has given $12,000 to the family of the former military police commander who fell to his death down an unfinished elevator shaft at a hotel Mr. Sophanna owns, according to officials and relatives of the officer.

Poipet City military police commander Ham Muth, 39, plummeted down the elevator shaft, which had no barrier blocking it, at the Midland Hotel in Tuol Kok district in the early morning hours of July 8 after returning from a night out with family and friends.

A senior military police official said the following day that a complaint accusing Mr. Sophanna of manslaughter over the accident has been submitted to the Phnom Penh Municipal Court.

But Ham Muth’s wife, Puth Sreymom, said Wednesday the case was settled outside of court.

“For my husband’s case, I did not complain to the court because it is useless,” she said. “But my husband died because of the hotel owner’s carelessness. Now, when I travel past that hotel, I hate the owner so much.”

Ms. Sreymom, who has three children aged 7 to 14, said she had allowed Phnom Penh military police chief Roth Sreang to handle the case on behalf of her family.

Major General Sreang confirmed the case was settled outside of court and referred further questions to Major General Teap Horn, Ham Muth’s cousin and a two-star general in the Ministry of Defense.

Maj. Gen. Horn said Mr. Sophanna had given $12,000 to “support” Ham Muth’s family.

“I am so sorry my cousin died in this accident,” he said.

On the morning he died, Ham Muth returned to Midland Hotel at about 3 a.m. He then disappeared from his room and when he had not returned by 5 a.m., the family began to search the hotel and found his body at the bottom of the elevator shaft.

Surveillance footage from the hotel shows Ham Muth pacing the hotel’s hallways in his underwear, but cuts out before he fell down the elevator shaft.

On July 9, Phnom Penh deputy military police commander Colonel Pol Davy said the investigation into the death was closed, and that the case had been submitted to the municipal court, with Mr. Sophanna accused of manslaughter under article 207 of the criminal code.

Manslaughter is punishable by one to three years in prison.

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