The Phnom Penh Municipal Court has levelled charges against Som Nori Tikhea, who is alleged to have been under the influence of alcohol when he hit a motorcycle with his car, seriously injuring two adults and causing the death of a two-month-old baby.
As of January 19, the accused had not been arrested. Authorities released him on bail on December 5, with a police official acting as his guarantor.
Phnom Penh municipal police identified the driver as Som Nori Tikhea, a 19-year-old resident of Village 3 in the capital’s Chroy Changvar commune and district.
Municipal court spokesman Plang Sophal told The Post on January 18 that the case had been investigated by the prosecutor, and the defendant has been charged with inadvertently causing death while driving, under articles 83 and 85 of the road traffic law.
The accident occurred at 2am at the base of the Chroy Changvar bridge, when Tikhea’s Lexus sedan hit the victim’s motorcycle from behind at high speed.
The three people aboard the motorcycle were seriously injured. The baby was flung almost 100m by the impact, according to witnesses, and succumbed to injuries at hospital several days later.
The accident sparked a public outcry, especially when it came to light that relatives of the driver offered the victims $2,500 in compensation for them to drop their complaint, and in the hope of getting bail.
The victims later rejected the compensation, saying he thought the document he fingerprinted was a police complaint and not an agreement to end the case.
“We have received a court order and are actively seeking the perpetrator. Despite our vigorous effects, we have not yet been able to bring in the suspect,” municipal police spokesman San Sok Seiha told The Post on January 19.
Seiha said the police have not yet been able to ascertain whether he has fled abroad or remains in the country, but that the search would continue.
One of Prime Minister Hun Sen’s four personal defense lawyers, who are acting for the victims, told The Post on January 19 on condition of anonymity that she is preparing additional evidence to submit to the court.
She said the victims have filed a lawsuit to claim compensation and have asked the court to punish the perpetrator.
“We will wait for the prosecution to take further action,” she added.
According to the police report, following inspection of the scene and the suspect’s vehicle, officers concluded that the accident was caused by excess speed, careless driving, and driving under the influence. The driver’s blood alcohol was recorded as 0.53 mg/l, beyond the legal limit.
Article 85 of the road traffic law stipulates that anyone who drives recklessly, resulting in the death of another person shall be punished by imprisonment from one to three years and a fine of four to 15 million riel ($1,000 to $3,700). Additional penalties may be applied, as stated in Article 53 of the Criminal Code.
It also stipulates that causing death while driving under the influence of alcohol is punishable by two to five years in prison and fines of up to 25 million riel.