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Son of prominent Cambodian lawyer sought in fatal hit-and-run crash

A Phnom Penh prosecutor issued an arrest warrant on Tuesday for the son of a prominent lawyer who is suspected in a hit-and-run car accident that killed a decorated badminton player.

The victim’s wife posted on Facebook this week that the suspect’s father – Prohm Vicheatsophea – attended the funeral of badminton gold medalist Seang Kimhong and offered the family US$1,000 if they agreed to not pursue criminal charges against his 23-year-old son.

The victim’s wife, Kruy Chhin Liang, said on Facebook that she rejected Prohm Vicheatsophea’s proposition and said she would continue to demand justice for her husband.

Her post has received hundreds of comments from Cambodians outraged by the offer. 

Justice Minister Keut Rith responded by ordering Phnom Penh Municipal Court prosecutors to “investigate and resolve the matter properly and strictly according to the law,” ministry spokesman Chin Malin told the Khmer Times.

The Dec. 14 accident between a jeep and a motorcycle took place in Phnom Penh’s Toul Kork district, an area of the capital known for its large villas. Seang Kimhong was riding on the motorbike, according to Kruy Chhin Liang.

Prosecutor Plong Sophal wrote in the warrant that evidence proves that Prohm Vichet Sosakda was the driver of the car and fled the scene “without responsibility.”

The suspect has been ordered to appear at the Phnom Penh Municipal Court before Jan. 9.

Seang Kimhong won the gold medal in badminton at this year’s SEA Games, a regional Olympiad that takes place every two years and was hosted by Cambodia for the first time in May.

Because of its rampant corruption and inadequate constraints on government power, Cambodia often places near the bottom of global rankings for adherence to the rule of law. In October, the World Justice Project put Cambodia at 141st out of 142 countries.

Soeung Sengkaruna, a spokesman for human rights group Adhoc, said authorities should take strict measures against the suspect, regardless of his background. Several NGOs are closely monitoring this case, he added.

Typically, prominent suspects are able to escape justice when they are accused of a crime, he told Radio Free Asia. 

“But we are looking to see if the authorities are working hard to bring this suspect to justice,” he said.  

Translated by Yun Samean. Edited by Matt Reed and Malcolm Foster.