A district governor in Prey Veng province was arrested on Thursday evening after crashing his Lexus SUV into a motorcycle-taxi driver on National Road 1 while speeding in the wrong lane, killing him instantly, before fleeing the scene, police said on Friday.
Chum Samoeun, the governor of Peamro district, had been driving to his office in Prek Khsay Kor commune from his home in nearby Nak Loeung commune when he veered into the oncoming lane and collided with 40-year-old Kong Thuon at about 6 p.m., according to provincial police chief Sreng Chea.
Brigadier General Chea said the moto-taxi driver succumbed to internal injuries at the scene, while Mr. Samoeun abandoned his Lexus RX300 and hitched a ride to work. He said he did not know why the governor had been driving to his office so late in the day, but that he was arrested there by provincial police about two hours later.
“The driver from Nak Loeung [Mr. Samoeun] crashed into the victim and we found out that the Lexus drove over the center-line and hit the victim,” Brig. Gen. Chea said.
“Our police arrested the governor after we received reports from local villagers and local authorities that the car was owned by Chum Samoeun,” he said. “We detained him at 8 p.m. while he was relaxing in his office.”
“The driver…admitted that he fell asleep while driving. Then, after he crashed into the victim, he just left the car and went to district office,” he said.
The police chief said he personally instructed investigators not to administer a breathalyzer because the governor would have had time to flush any alcohol from his bloodstream by drinking tea.
“We couldn’t find out if he was drunk because after the crash, he went to his office, so he might have drank fresh tea with lemon, which can move all alcohol out of the body,” he said.
There is no medical evidence to suggest that tea of any variety can immediately expel alcohol from a person’s bloodstream.
Brig. Gen. Chea said Mr. Samoeun stood accused of careless driving causing death under Article 85 of the traffic law, and would be sent to the Prey Veng Provincial Court on Saturday.
The crime is punishable by between one and three years in prison, while the use of alcohol by the suspect—and whether the perpetrator attends to the victim—are considered during sentencing, according to the law.
Deputy district police chief Un Sophannarith, whose officials attended the scene of the crash, offered a different account of the events leading up to the accident.
“He was driving fast and he overtook another car. That’s what caused him to crush the victim,” he said.
Mr. Sophannarith also questioned the decision not to test the governor’s blood for alcohol.
“If he was drunk, the breathalyzer could have still been used to test whether alcohol was still in his body, up to 12 hours later,” he said.