Rights Group Demands Probe of Parliamentarian’s Hit-and-Run

The U.S. advocacy group Human Rights Watch (HRW) is urging the government to conduct a full investigation of CPP lawmaker Cheam Yeap and his involvement in a deadly traffic accident last month.

Mr. Yeap was traveling in a Lexus SUV when it collided head-on with a couple on a motorbike in Kandal province’s Kien Svay district on November 22.

Police and witnesses say the couple were on the wrong side of the road when the crash occurred.

However, in violation of the country’s Traffic Law, Mr. Yeap’s vehicle did not stop at the scene of the accident.

The couple were left lying on the side of the road for half an hour before they were taken to a local clinic. Pin Sophea died of her injuries later that afternoon, while her husband, Moeun Tha, was treated for a ruptured kidney but has since been released from hospital, according to a relative.

Kandal provincial police said last week that they would investigate the case.

But in a statement dated Monday, HRW said it was told by a “national judicial official,” speaking confidentially, that there was no chance the provincial court would pursue a serious investigation of the crash or Mr. Yeap’s action afterward.

Police were “just going through the motions to please public opinion,” the statement quotes the official as saying.

HRW said Mr. Yeap was likely to be spared a proper investigation or trial thanks to the CPP’s extra-judicial control of the local police and courts in Kandal.

The group also urged Prime Minister Hun Sen, who has often advocated for more road safety, not to let that happen.

“If Hun Sen wants to tackle road safety and show that he is serious about ending impunity for powerful officials, he will ensure that a serious investigation is conducted into this fatal hit and run,” said Brad Adams, HRW’s Asia director.

Mr. Yeap could not be reached for comment Tuesday.

In the days following the accident, however, Mr. Yeap denied any wrongdoing because, although he left the scene of the accident, he soon called his lawyer to deal with the issue on his behalf.

Kandal deputy provincial police chief Ven Sovinn said Tuesday he sent the case file to the provincial court on Thursday, and dismissed HRW’s claim that the investigation would be a sham.

“If I had not been working on the case, why would the case now be at the court?” he asked.

Kandal Provincial Court chief prosecutor Ouk Kimsith said he had received the case file but declined to comment further and referred questions to prosecutor Sam Rithyveasna, who could not be reached.

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