Questions Over Police Inaction in Hit and Run

The military on Thursday identified the soldier who killed a man and seriously injured another in a hit and run last week, but police said they will only pursue criminal charges if the victim’s family files a complaint.

Last week, a Royal Cambodian Armed Forces (RCAF) ambulance crashed into a motorbike in Phnom Penh’s Russei Keo district, killing San Pal, 19, and seriously injuring his brother San Chan, 18.

The driver, Second Lieutenant Muy Sopeap, 45, who fled the scene of the crash, was identified Thursday by Major Leng Thon, deputy medic of RCAF’s Siem Reap-based Region 4, from where the ambulance originated.

But traffic police in Phnom Penh said charges would only be pursued if the victim’s family files a complaint.

“We still did not arrest the driver yet,” said Sok Nuon, a district traffic police officer. “It depends if the family files a complaint to court or only wants compensation.”

Superiors in charge of the case echoed Mr. Nuon’s position.

“We are looking to the victim’s family, whether they file a complaint to the court or not,” said Phnom Penh deputy traffic police chief Seng Chanthon.

But legal expert Sok Sam Oeun, executive director of the Cambodian Defenders Project, said traffic police have a duty to pursue criminal charges regardless of whether victims file a complaint.

“There is no provision in traffic law for that,” he said. “They still must pursue the case.”

RCAF sent representatives of the driver to discuss compensation with the victims on Wednesday, when the family requested $6,000.

San Seth, the father of the victims, said Thursday he brought his surviving son home to Kandal province on Wednesday because they could no longer afford hospital care in Phnom Penh.

“If the RCAF officials provide compensation to us we will be done with the case,” said Mr. Seth, explaining he would not file a complaint. “We cannot challenge RCAF officials,” he said.

Major General Peou Heng, chief of staff of RCAF’s Military Region 4 said if the Sec. Lt. Sopeap is found he will face punishment under military law.

sokhean@cambodiadaily.com, consiglio@cambodiadaily.com

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